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Tue, 09.08.2009

Ruth M. Garnett, Poet, and Arts Administrator born

*Ruth Garnett was born on this date in 1954. She is a Black poet, writer, and workshop coordinator.

Ruth-Miriam Garnett was raised in Webster Groves, MO. Freeman Westley Garnett of Memphis, TN, and Irene Thomas Garnett White of Webster Groves were her parents.  They were a deep influence on the values and career choices of their daughter. Garnett’s mother would dream of singing professionally.  As a college student, she arranged a summer job as a nanny with a Connecticut family to set up an audition in New York City with the Metropolitan Opera.  Her mother sang spirituals, German lieder, and arias in various languages. Garnett’s father read constantly and started a newspaper in Tyler, Texas, before settling to raise a family.

As a child, Garnett’s parents took her and her siblings to picket lines to protest segregated facilities in the St. Louis area. After the protests, their friends and colleagues would gather in their family living room, sing freedom songs, and converse about contemporary politics.

Garnett holds a BA in Social Anthropology and English and American Literature and Language from Harvard University.  She has done further work in Anthropology at Columbia University and Dance Studies at Washington University in St. Louis.  She has taught creative writing at the City College of New York, Webster University in St. Louis County, and the Oklahoma Summer Arts Institute. From 1981 to 1983, Garnett directed the Scarab Poets Workshop in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn.

In 1985, she helped organize the BAG II Performance Series in St. Louis, featuring Fontella Bass, Kelvyn Bell, Hamiet Bluiett, Julius Hemphill, Haki Madhubuti, and Quincy Troupe. She published "A Move Further South," a book of poetry, in 1987. In 1992, she received a Creative Writing Fellowship from the National Endowment of the Arts and, from 1993 to 2000, published in the Harlem Arts Journal. She recently coordinated a program for the Ford Foundation, “A Reading of African Diaspora Poets,” held in St. Louis in 2003. She coordinated a program for the Ford Foundation, “A Reading of African Diaspora Poets,” held in St. Louis in 2003.

During a recent book tour, Garnett appeared on several panels, including Books Expo America (Chicago), New York Is Book Country (NYU), and the Congressional Black Caucus Author’s Pavilion.

In 2004, Simon & Schuster/Atria Books published Garnett's novel Laelia. Currently, she commutes between New York City, where she conducts The Harlem Workshop, and St. Louis, where she conducts the Maat Writers Workshop monthly under First Civilizations, Inc sponsorship.

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Black is what the prisons are, The stagnant vortex of the hours Swept into totality, Creeping in the perjured heart, Bitter in the vulgar rhyme, Bitter on the walls; Black is where the devils... THE AFRICAN AFFAIR by Bruce M. Wright.
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