M. Lee Alexander: Baumanis Grant Report

Feb 26, 2023

AABS is pleased to recognize M. Lee Alexander for her completion of the project “‘Old Love Does not Rust:’ An Exploration of Baltic Poetry,” for which she received the Baumanis Grant for Creative Projects in Baltic Studies.

“Old Love Does not Rust” involved extensive travel and research across the Baltic states and resulted in two products: a poetry manuscript and a website, both of which are free to access.

M. Lee Alexander

©M. Lee Alexander, 2023

M. Lee Alexander‘s poetry is inspired by her love of language, nature, music, and travel. It has appeared in a variety of journals and been anthologized in a number of collections. She is the author of three books of poetry: Observatory (Finishing Line Press 2007, nominated for the Virginia Library Association Poetry Book Award), Folly Bridge (Finishing Line Press 2011), and Spinning the Compass (Aquillrelle Press, Belgium, 2018). Alexander’s work has won significant awards, including Finalist for the Robert Frost Foundation Annual Poetry Award, Finalist in the Political satire category of Ireland’s Strokestown International Poetry Competition, and First Honorable Mention in the W. B. Yeats Society of New York Poetry Competition. M. Lee Alexander has performed her work, sometimes with jazz accompaniment, in multiple venues across the mid-Atlantic region, the Midwest, and internationally. She has judged local, statewide, and international writing contests. Alexander teaches creative writing, including poetry and creative nonfiction, at William & Mary in Williamsburg, VA, where she lives with a house full of pets who think they run the joint and pretty much do.

 

The Impact of an Award: Report from M. Lee Alexander

After the completion of “‘Old Love Does not Rust’: An Exploration of Baltic Poetry,” M. Lee Alexander submitted a reflection to AABS.
We thank her for her permission to publish her thoughts, which have been lightly edited.

 

During the spring and summer of 2022, I traveled to the Baltic countries to conduct fieldwork, research, and cultural observation in order to accomplish two important tasks:

1) Write a chapbook-length poetry manuscript of poems inspired by the culture and literature of Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia, with an additional section including Pan-Baltic poems to celebrate unity in the Baltics. The manuscript is accompanied by original photography to illustrate the works. It is my intention to send the manuscript with illustrations out for publication, and I already have some publishers in mind. Please find the link to the manuscript here.

2) Create a website dedicated to Baltic poetry and poets, highlighting example classic and contemporary poets from each country. The website is designed for use by the general public and also college students and even down to the high school and middle school levels, in order to introduce younger readers to the poetry and culture of the Baltic countries. The website includes an Introduction, three sample classic poets and three sample contemporary poets for each country, along with suggestions for further reading, and interactive surveys and quizzes. It also contains a special section on Response to Ukraine as during my visit the outpouring of support for Ukraine in each country was omnipresent, visually inescapable, and palpable. The site concludes with an extensive bibliography so that users of the site can conduct further research if they so wish. In addition, the site includes a space for users of the website to add their own original Baltic-themed poems to be shared by the community.

As so often happens when we explore countries and cultures other than our own, I learned about myself along the way. In the Baltics I learned to be more appreciative of the refreshing power of nature, and to value time spent in relationships with friends and colleagues over business-meeting deadlines. I saw that each country had its own unique history and character, and they delighted in their hard-fought independence, yet also took pride in being part of the Baltics as a whole. So some common themes emerged which are reflected in the poetry, along with the individual spirit of each separate country in its own national pride.

Here is a link to the site: https://sites.google.com/email.wm.edu/balticpoetry/home

– M. Lee Alexander, 2023

M. Lee Alexander

What is the Baumanis Grant?

The Baumanis Grant is an award made to honor Velta Marija Baumanis of Mount Brydges, Ontario, who left a generous bequest to AABS at the end of her career as an architect. An award of up to $7,000 is available for any creative project (e.g., book, film, exhibit, etc.) that promotes Baltic studies. Preference is given to topics with a pan-Baltic or comparative aspect. Applicants must be members of the AABS at the time of application.

Applications for the past cycle were evaluated by the AABS 2021-2022 Grants and Awards Committee consisting of AABS VP for Professional Development Dr. Ineta Dabašinskienė, AABS President Dr. Daunis Auers, AABS Director-at-Large Dr. Andres Kasekamp, and AABS Treasurer Ugis Sprūdžs, CFA.

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