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Honest on the page – honest in the classroom: Carolyn Smart

In her own writing and with that of her ­students, Carolyn Smart takes a no-holds-barred approach. She doesn’t follow any ­fashion, the ­latest hip way. She stays true to her own voice and urges the same of her students.

“You are your strongest critic. You’ve got to feel good about it. Be honest with yourself, with others,” says Ms. Smart, a poet who has taught ­creative writing in the Queen’s Department of English since 1989. “And I am honest with my students. There is no point in unwarranted praise.”

It’s this tough, fearless attitude that has long kept Ms. Smart’s career bubbling and fresh. She launched her sixth book of poetry, Careen, in ­September, to a full house in the Malting Tower of the Tett Centre in Kingston. Careen is a long poem, a new take on the tumultuous lives of ­Bonnie and Clyde.

At the event, Julie Salverson, a friend of Ms. Smart’s and drama professor at Queen’s, said a few words before Ms. Smart read from the book. Ms. Smart often guest-stars in one of Dr. Salverson’s drama classes on the artist as witness to risky stories. Here’s a small excerpt of what Dr. Salverson said:

She dive-bombs into the darkest of places.
She brings up sweetness.
She shows us that those places are in all of us.
She is fearless in her gaze.
Her words are fierce, untamed, beautiful not pretty, anguished not sad
She takes no prisoners, this one.

Read the full story in the Queen’s Gazette.