Donna Spector’s play Golden Ladder (published in Women Playwrights: The Best Plays of 2002) was produced Off Broadway, as was her first play, Another Paradise, in 1986. Her eighteen full-length plays and many short plays have won prizes and have appeared regionally and in Canada, Ireland, Sweden and Greece.
Her poetry collection, The Woman Who Married Herself, a finalist for the 2010 Sinclair Poetry Prize, was published by Evening Street Press. Her poems, plays and stories have been published in Parabola, The Greensboro Review, Poet & Critic, Sycamore Review, Notre Dame Review, The Bellingham Review, Blue Unicorn, Marlboro Review, Gaia, The Paterson Literary Review, Calliope, Rattle, Journal of New Jersey Poets, The Connecticut River Review, Sojourn and other literary magazines and anthologies. Her novel The Candle of God was published in 2012 by Outskirts Press.
Winner of the Masters Poetry Prize, she has been nominated three times for the Pushcart Prize in poetry, and a program of her poems aired on Australian national radio. A member of Dramatists Guild and Poets & Writers, she received two National Endowment for the Humanities grants to study in Greece as well as grants from the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation and the New York Council for the Arts.
Spector has an M.A. in English from U.C. Berkeley, has taught writing at Rutgers Summer Arts Institute, and for the past year she has been associate editor of Evening Street Review. Her agent is Peter Sawyer, President of Fifi Oscard Agency, NYC.
Praise for Donna’s 2016 book: TWO Worlds
Spector writes in easily accessible language that is nevertheless rich with sensory detail and deep emotional expression. Her confessional poems explore family bonds, parents’ deaths, and the poet’s marriages, as well as general issues including war, spirituality, and love. One might understand to some extent the poet’s inner journey through reading the observations Spector brings down from the mountain, so to speak. The reader’s soul feels nourished; yet, the poet then slips away, underscoring the truth of impermanence, as she depicts in “House Burning”:
But from that time on I understood there is no
protection, owning or renting, building walls
six feet thick, we’re just naked bodies
with armfuls of flammable dreams.
There is more to Two Worlds than the poet’s love of her family. Spector’s poems touch on her mate, her students, travels, war, nature, and all throughout, weave a tapestry showing deep sensitivity to the human condition, the pain of human failing, and the unending, aching desire for infinite goodness, by whatever name it ultimately goes.
Woman Who Married Herself, Donna Spectorr
Reviews from Midwest Book Review and The Pedestal (PDF format)
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A Sinclair Poetry Prize Finalist
“Break us,” says Donna Spector, “and love pours out.” In The Woman Who Married Herself, poetry pours out as well, in poems of heartbreak and nostalgia, irony and laughter, reverie and acuity. This is a poetry that probes at life, discovering in the dramatic encounters with the past and present a knowledge of the world and of oneself that deepens and enriches our lives, too, marrying sensitivity with intelligence. Paul Kane
In The Woman Who Married Herself, Donna Spector gives us the gift of honesty and specificity to create powerful and rooted poems that bring us to tears. She makes us believe we know the people she writes about, know the complexities of life with all its confusion and shame, love and loss. These poems teach us how to survive. You will want to read this book again and again. Maria Mazziotti Gillan, Winner of American Book Award, 2008 for All That Lies Between Us
“Donna Spector’s book is wonderful–surreal, quirky, comical, full of life. Poems of childhood and family history, lovers and longing, travel, love as a search for life. Poems about her teachers–John Berryman, Thom Gunn, Louis Simpson. The Woman Who Married Herself “[o]pened boxes of china/so fine she could hold/a plate to the light and see her own/life beyond.” A perfect description of this book.” Sharon Doubiago,
Love on the Streets, Selected and New Poems, My Father’s Love, Portrait of the Poet as a Young Girl
Donna Spector’s Lessons is a cycle of vignettes, arranged chronologically, that depicts, through specific moments in the speaker-teacher’s career, the wide sweep of emotions one experiences during a career in education. Often poignant (the loss of students we carry like stones with us, although we may have forgotten their names), sometimes funny (a reactionary principal who doesn’t actually read anything), this book is a welcome acknowledgement of everyday scenarios for Spector’s fellow teachers, as well as a window onto the happiness and heartache of the profession for those who have been affected by teachers—which, of course, is all of us. —BJ Ward, Gravedigger’s Birthday, 17 Love Poems with No Despair, Landing in New Jersey with Soft Hands
Teachers are idealists who try hard to make the world a better place, in spite of all the interferences with demanding parents, inane politicians, and inept administrators who torment rather than lead. And we all fail miserably much of the time. In one poem in Lessons, Donna Spector advises her students “Don’t let fear stop you.” And she takes her own advice marvelously. These poems overflow with good students, immature students, even criminal students, with rejection and frustration, loving and loathing, pity and terror, and ultimately with bracing courage. Dr. Johnson defined a second marriage as “the triumph of hope over experience.” The serene wisdom Ms. Spector offers in these poems in the aftermath of classroom nightmares makes it a good definition of teaching, too. —Sander Zulauf, Editor Emeritus, Journal of New Jersey Poets, & Poet Laureate, Diocese of Newark.
English teachers expect a certain amount of drama, but Donna Spector’s Lessons is especially rich in the comedy and tragedy of high school. Struggling to keep order in the classroom, luring students into literature, directing plays and a literary magazine, watching students navigate the chaotic halls of adolescence, Spector, a graduate of Berkeley’s hippie days, can be as provocative as her students. Outside the classroom, she’s the playwright wearing glittering red heels (paid for by her principal) to her Off-Broadway opening night. Quirky, witty, tender poems that remind us how challenging and rewarding education (on both sides of the desk) can be. —Mary Makofske, Tractio, Eating Nasturtiums
Donna Spector’s book of poems, Lessons, takes us on a journey, as we follow her from her early days as a teacher through the numerous classrooms she inhabited in the years in between. Spector celebrates both her failures and triumphs as a teacher. What we learn in Lessons is just how much love and perseverance go into creating a great teacher. What a gem of a book! —Maria Mazziotti Gillan, The Silence in an Empty House, Ancestors’ Song, What We Pass On: Collected Poems