Book launch, 5/3, “Strange with Age,” new poetry by Dr. Sharon Cumberland

Written by Karen L. Bystrom
April 18, 2017

Seattle University will celebrate the launch of Strange with Age, a collection of poems by Sharon Cumberland, PhD, Professor of English, on May 3, 4 to 6 pm in Casey Commons. The book launch is free and open to the public.

Cover image of Sharon Cumberland's poetry collection, Strange with AgeFrom “Strange with Age, by prize-winning poet Sharon Cumberland, explores the gains and losses of the aging process through the prism of her 95-year-old father, as well as other, wide-ranging subjects concerned with the vagaries and challenges of living. Built around the sonnet cycle "My Father Has Grown Strange with Age," the poems reflect the poet's travels to Rome, Glasgow, Seattle, and San Francisco, and an array of nursing homes, fantasies, and dreams. Cumberland's poems are known for the clarity and accessibility of her voice.”

Dr. Cumberland came to Seattle University in 1994 as the first poet hired on the English faculty to teach in the new creative writing track in the English major. She is also the former Director of the Creative Writing Program at Seattle University.

"Seattle University has been very supportive of my poetry career, and I'm proud to be the first creative writer to receive promotion to Associate Professor, tenure, and then promotion to full Professor in English/CW. It paves the way for the creative writing professors who come after me,” said Dr. Cumberland.  “I'm also grateful to SU for giving me a family leave to be with my 95-year-old-father, who is the subject--and the metaphor--of many of the poems in this book."


Reviews for the compelling poetry collection:

“Cumberland's poems are clear as a river and cold to the teeth—the poems are so personal it almost seems indecent to show them.  How truer a picture they are than X-ray or photo.” -- Sandra Cisneros

Strange with Age is proof that wisdom—the real, hard-earned kind, built of experience, intelligence, faith, and yes, age—does not take the place of desire, but stands arm-in-arm with it offering truth, consolation, and a lovely sense of humor.” -- Kathleen Flenniken

Strange with Age is available through

Strange with Age is Dr. Cumberland’s second full-length collection published by Black Heron Press; Peculiar Honors was published in 2012. She has been writing poems since 1987 and  has published three chapbook collections, The Arithmetic of Mourning (Green Rock Press, 1998), Sharon Cumberland: Greatest  Hits 1985-2000  (Pudding House Press, 2002) and a combined chapbook with poet Dennis Caswell, Ccausmwbeelrlland in Floating Bridge Review 3, 2010. Her poems have appeared in many literary magazines and journals including Ploughshares, The Iowa Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, Kalliope, Verse, The Midwest Quarterly and Image, among many others. Twice nominated for Pushcart Prizes, and she has won Kalliope’s Sue Saniel Elkind Award, Writer’s Haven Bright Side competition, and the Pacific Northwest Writer’s Association Zola Award for Poetry in 2001 and 2013. She was a Jack Straw Foundation Writer–in-Residence for 2008 and a frequent artist-in-residence at Yaddo in Saratoga Springs, NY.

Cumberland also founded the Greenwood Poets at the Greenwood Senior Center in Seattle in 2005. This writing group for older poets began as a class and became a workshop for intermediate to experienced poets. The group has produced several publishing poets as well as poetry collections and anthologies.

For the past 3 years Cumberland has been an arts reviewer for Seattle Gay news, the third oldest LGBT newspaper in the country. She covers opera, dance, early music, and special events such as Cirque de Soleil and the Seattle Womxns March of 2017.

Cumberland has also written lyrics for several composers, including John Gordon Hill, Gary James, Miles Hankins, Zachary Green, Daniel Gilliam, Robert Frankenberry and Jessica Rudman. Cumberland was the poet-in-residence at The Seasons music festival in 2010. She is also writing a sequence of poems for composer Haskell Small, “Book of Hours,” to be presented in November, 2017. Her Gregorian chant for choir, “Holy Innocence,” was commissioned for the Seattle University Choir by Professor Joy Sherman and performed in

In conjunction with Seattle Opera, Cumberland founded the Front and Center program for college students to attend the opera at deeply discounted prices. She worked at the Metropolitan Opera before becoming an educator, and has taken over five thousand students, faculty and friends to the Seattle Opera over the course of her career. The Front and Center program has expanded to colleges and universities throughout Washington State.

Dr. Cumberland has a PhD in American Literature from the Graduate Center of the City University of New York where she was awarded the Melvin Dixon Prize for her dissertation, “Slave Narratives and Slave Owner Narratives in the Antebellum South.” She spent a sabbatical year at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the Media Studies program and has published several articles on fan fiction and other emerging genres of literature on the Internet. She has taught a wide range of academic and creative writing courses at Seattle U. including American Literature, Literature of the American South, African American Slave Narratives, Slavery and Labor, Mythology, Film and Literature, American Novelists, Modern Poetry, New Media studies, and Orality and Literacy: from Homer to Hypertext. She has taught many courses in applied creative writing including Creative Writing Genres, Writing Narrative Poetry, Writing Lyric Poetry, Writing for New Media, and a Creative Expressions course in the UCOR—Voices and Visions: Reading and Writing Poetry.

In an earlier life, Cumberland spent two years in the Order of St. Helena, an Episcopal religious order for women in New York. She was also an arts manager at the Vivian Beaumont Theater in Lincoln Center, the Metropolitan Opera Company, Columbia Artist Management, and the Henry Street Playhouse, all in New York City. She taught English at Brooklyn Technical high School while earning her PhD at the City University of New York Graduate Center.

Cumberland was born and raised in the Episcopal church, and attends St. Paul’s Episcopal Church with her husband, James T. Jones, who is a retired English Professor and a letterpress printer.