Her love of literature lures writers Literary group founder mixes zeal, business

October 21, 1997|By Carolyn Melago | Carolyn Melago,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

If prodded, Ellen Conroy Kennedy will hesitantly describe herself as an "arts administrator." But this hardly does justice to someone who has cooked dinner for a Nobel Laureate and talked a Pulitzer Prize winner into reading his poetry on horseback.

TC Woodrow Wilson Visiting Fellow at 24 liberal arts colleges over 10 years.

"She knows a side of the writing world that isn't a glitzy one," Taylor says.

The cozy atmosphere created for authors is one of the group's trademarks, what Moon calls the group's "own art form." The night before Nobel Laureate Isaac Bashevis Singer read to a Columbia audience in October 1984, Kennedy held an intimate dinner for him at her home.

Not every author's comfort, though, is the primary concern. Kennedy had heard of Pulitzer Prize winner Taylor reading his equine-inspired poetry while donning riding gear, so she asked him to take the gimmick one step further: recite poetry while riding a horse.

"My basic thought was that's the craziest thing I'd ever heard," recalls Taylor, now a professor at American University. "I just said something noncommittal. I was confident it would never happen."

But Kennedy didn't relent. She arranged a date and a place (the Columbia Horse Center in September 1986) and asked Taylor to reconsider. After finding a suitable horse, Taylor agreed and mesmerized an audience of 100 with his horseback recitation of his poem, "The Flying Change."

Taylor continues his relationship with HoCoPoLitSo, narrating the group's continuing series of televised chats with authors, "The Writing Life."

Tonight Kennedy will receive some of the recognition she gives authors, sharing the Eisenberg Prize with Lyle Linville, a history professor at Prince George's County Community College.

Pub Date: 10/21/97

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