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Rebecca Hart Olander ’96

Alumnae Poet

Rebecca Hart Olander ’96

Rebecca Hart Olander holds a bachelor’s degree from Hampshire College, a master of arts in teaching in English from Smith College ’96, and a master of fine arts in writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She teaches writing at Westfield State University and is the editor/director of Perugia Press, an independent feminist press that publishes full-length poetry collections by emerging women poets.

Rebecca’s poetry has appeared recently in Bracken Magazine, Crab Creek Review, Jet Fuel Review, The Massachusetts Review, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, and elsewhere, and her collaborative written and visual work has been published in multiple venues online and in They Said: A Multi-Genre Anthology of Contemporary Collaborative Writing (Black Lawrence Press). Rebecca is a Women’s National Book Association poetry contest winner and a two-time Pushcart Prize nominee. Her chapbook, Dressing the Wounds, was published in 2019 by dancing girl press, and her debut full-length collection, Uncertain Acrobats, was released by CavanKerry Press in 2021.

Select Poems

Peine forte et dure

I remember getting stoned with my father

in the backyard of his house in Boston.

All lightness and insight. Intoxicating.

Summer night, a creeping darkness,

both struck dumb by the sound

of crickets singing rounds

with passing cars in the gathering dusk.

When his final darkness came,

he didn’t want to look, but in life,

he’d walked through Concord as bold

and sure as Thoreau, stacking cairns

he hoped fellow travelers

would add to, finding comfort

in revisiting, and in change.

In elementary school, a field trip

to the Salem Witch Museum, where a waxen

Giles Corey died slowly beneath heavy stones

over and over in his cell, his strained voice

answering only: More weight.

On Corey’s memorial marker:

Pressed to Death, September 19, 1692.

A pretty name for it, peine forte et dure,

punishment for those refusing to plead.

In a way, my father “stood mute,”

unable to speak at the end. I’d like to think

he was riding high on the scent

of long-ago Rose of Sharon trees

in the city, the chorus of cicadas.

—from Uncertain Acrobats (CavanKerry Press, 2021)

About Rebecca Hart

Find Rebecca Hart Olander online @rholanderpoet and her website.