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And I Want to Start Again

Elizabeth Coleman ’69 finds renewal in art and activism

In Elizabeth Coleman ’69’s poem “And I Want to Start Again,” the speaker has left her job. 

It took moxie to walk away, a colleague says.

How I love that word, born 

of a soft drink.

But it wasn’t so much moxie talking

as a brush with cancer.

A classical guitarist, watercolorist, and lawyer, in addition to poet, Coleman worked as a legal aid attorney and consumer law specialist before entering private practice in Atlanta, where she and her husband raised two children. 

Upon returning to her hometown of New York City, Coleman served as civil rights director for the Anti-Defamation League and executive director of the New York State Trial Lawyers Association until 2005.

“After my illness, I felt compelled to figure out what I wanted to do with my remaining time on the planet,” says Coleman, who was successfully treated for endometrial cancer four years earlier. “I ended up falling in love with poetry. Having studied it locally for several years, I received an M.F.A. from the Vermont College of Fine Arts in 2012.”

Coleman has written five books of poetry, including Pythagore, Amoureux—Pythagoras in Love, a French translation of Lee Slonimsky’s sonnet collection. 

All of Coleman’s books feature her watercolors on the covers, and her office is zoned around her passions: “I have my computer on my desk, an art table, the area where I play guitar, and the couch where I read, write, and think.”

In addition, Coleman teaches meditation and runs a small family foundation focused on addressing climate change. 

 “I’ve always looked around the corner to see what I want to do,” she says, “but now I think what I’m doing will keep me challenged and growing for the duration.”