Alumna Elisabeth Denison '04 reading at the New York City Poetry Festival on Governors Island in July 2015.

Alumna Elisabeth Denison '04: Reflections on a Remarkable and Storied Writing Career

Alumna Elisabeth Reidy Denison ‘04 has immense gratitude for having the freedom during her formative years at Nashoba Brooks School to “write more or less what I wanted.” That rare and special time created the seedbed for her remarkable and prolific writing career.
Elisabeth’s writing has appeared in Bodega, SAND, Comparative Literature Undergraduate Journal,Thrush, The Tangerine, and elsewhere. A native of Concord and a graduate of the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, Elisabeth moved to New York City and served on the editorial staff of The New Yorker from 2013-2017. At The New Yorker, Elisabeth managed the poetry department. Her role was to ferry every accepted poem through the publication process into print, working in collaboration with the magazine’s copy editors, fact-checkers, layout editors, and sound designers, and with the contributing poets themselves. The other half of the job was to read through hundreds of submissions per week and to put forward standouts for serious consideration by the poetry editor at the time, Paul Muldoon. 
“Every few weeks Paul and I would meet—together with a reader, who would come in once a week to help me work through the backlog—and discuss which poems to accept for publication. The decision-making process was painstaking: routinely disappointing,since there was so much excellent work to choose from and so little space in the magazine; and just as often exhilarating, since we frequently published first-time contributors,” Elisabeth said. 

In 2017, Elisabeth left The New Yorker, and New York, to pursue a master’s degree in creative writing at Goldsmiths, University of London. While there, she continued work on two pre-existing projects: a poetry manuscript and a longer work of fiction. Her dissertation, part of that fiction project, was shortlisted for the 2019 Pat Kavanagh Award, a prize given annually to graduates of the program at Goldsmiths by United Agents.

Throughout her nine years at Nashoba Brooks, Elisabeth says that she was given a remarkable range of opportunities to think deeply and read frequently. Library classes and, in fifth grade, D.E.A.R. were bright spots in the school week that taught her that “reading is something to make time for.”

“I have a very clear memory of my Connecting Class teacher, Kirsta Davey, urging our boisterous group one day to focus and ‘try to get something down on paper,’” Elisabeth says. “So much about writing is contained in that phrase: the imperatives to witness, to record; the necessity of discipline, the attempt at connection with others through our language,” she added. 

Another thing to make time for: play. Recalling recess—particularly lower-grades recess— Elisabeth reflects on “the way we played, the way our imaginations wrapped around the land we were playing on...was formative at the time—more than twenty years ago—and is directly influencing much of what I’m thinking and writing about now.”

Elisabeth most recently published a section from her novel-in-progress in Aesthetica magazine’s Creative Writing Annual 2020. 

We cannot wait to read it!

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Situated on a beautiful 30-acre campus in historic Concord, Massachusetts, Nashoba Brooks School serves boys and girls in Preschool through Grade 3, and girls in Grades 4 through 8. Nashoba Brooks is an independent school designed to build community, character, and confidence in its students.
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