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Bilkent Teacher is Norman Mailer Poetry Fellow

By James Swetz
Bilkent Teacher is Norman Mailer Poetry Fellow

Melanie Swetz, Head of English at Bilkent Erzurum Laboratory School in Erzurum, Turkey, was awarded a Norman Mailer Fellowship and spent three weeks at the Writers’ Colony in Salt Lake City this past summer. Mailer researched The Executioner’s Song in Utah. The Mailer fellowships focus on an individual’s work while providing a discussion forum with other emerging writers.
Melanie is beginning her eighth year with Bilkent University, having been the Head of English at BLIS in Ankara for five years and now in Erzrum at BELS for her third. Prior to Turkey, she taught English and/or drama and library in Croatia, The Gambia, Aruba, Somalia, France, Saudi Arabia, Singapore and Connecticut.
Mrs. Swetz’s poetry was first recognized in 2011 when she was short-listed for the Bridport (UK) Prize in Poetry for her poem “Mehmet’s Lemons.” She was short-listed again in 2013. In 2012 and 2013 she was awarded Mailer Scholarships to the Writers’ Colony in Provincetown and New York. She won the Milford Arts (US) poetry contest in 2012 and 2013. She has poems published in recent issues of the Canadian poetry magazine Vallum and The English Journal.
According to Melanie, “My poetry first took shape in Africa. The Gambia had experienced a bloodless coup leaving the country hungry for a newness that was palpable. This was the beginning of my own coup, the one that has been in my blood ever since: writing poetry. The poems would fall out like the mangoes and avocados from the trees outside my kitchen window. With care, I would catch them, or bend down and pick them up. As I watched my children scurry after the guinea fowl around our compound, a poem would formulate in just such a circular way – nebulous at the edges while becoming tighter as the center got closer.”
Kevin Oderman, Quincy Troupe and Jeffrey Renard Allen were the author mentors in residence at the University of Utah this summer. The program is intended for emerging and mid-career writers, with an emphasis on the quality of writing rather than the quantity of publications.
In the past, the Norman Mailer Writers’ Colony was in residence at Mailer’s homes on Cape Cod and in Brooklyn Heights. Future locations will include Miami and Paris.

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