March 06, 2023

Catherine Pierce, poet laureate of Mississippi, will deliver the keynote address at Susquehanna University’s 165th commencement on Saturday, May 20, at 1 p.m. in the Robert I. Estill Field House.

Originally from Delaware, Pierce earned her bachelor’s degree from Susquehanna University in 2000, her Master of Fine Arts from the Ohio State University in 2003, and her doctorate from the University of Missouri in 2007.

She is professor of English and co-director of the creative writing program at Mississippi State University, where she also teaches courses in creative writing and American literature.

“Catherine’s accomplishments as an author and educator are a testament to the heights a Susquehanna education can take our students,” said University President Jonathan Green. “Through her work as a professor and poet laureate of Mississippi, she acts as a champion for literacy and the art of the written word. I look forward to hearing her inspire Susquehanna’s Class of 2023.”

Pierce is the author of four books of poems: Danger Days (2020), The Tornado Is the World (2016), The Girls of Peculiar (2012) and Famous Last Words (2008), all from Saturnalia Books. Each of her most recent three books won the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Poetry Prize. Famous Last Words won the Saturnalia Books Poetry Prize. A chapbook, Animals of Habit (Kent State University Press), was published in 2004. Her poems I Kept Getting Books About Birds and Entreaty each won the prestigious Pushcart Prize.

Pierce’s poems have been published in many journals and anthologies, including The Best American Poetry, American Poetry Review, The Nation, Ploughshares, The Southern Review, New England Review, FIELD, Pleiades, Gettysburg Review, and the 2019 and 2021 Pushcart Prize anthologies. Her essays appear in The New York Times, Ecotone, The Rumpus, The Millions, Cincinnati Review and River Teeth. In 2019, she was named a National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing Fellow, and in 2022 she was selected as an Academy of American Poets’ Laureate Fellow.

In 2021, the governor of Mississippi appointed Pierce as the state’s official poet laureate, a position that involves creating and reading poetry at state occasions, promoting literacy and representing the state’s rich cultural heritage. She will serve in this role through 2025.