Allison Seay, a popular Upper School English teacher, has another career that not all of us know about. After taking one of Claudia Emerson’s classes at University of Mary Washington, and later teaching for Ms. Emerson while she was absent, Ms. Seay decided she wanted to become a writer.
Ms. Seay has published a book of poetry entitled To See the Queen. In 2011 she received the Lexi Rudnitsky First Book Prize, which she says is “awarded annually by Persea Books to a woman who has not yet published a full-length collection. It is named in honor of Lexi Rudnitsky, a brilliant poet herself who died before she saw her own first book released.”
“My book took a long time,” Ms. Seay says, “…I didn’t want it to simply be a collection of pages; I needed its chronology, order, sequence, structure, etc., to be purposeful, and I hoped to create the kind of book I have always admired–the kind that manages form and content with grace and meaning.”
Two years after the publication of her book, Ms. Seay came to Collegiate. “The first year was weird,” she says, admitting that she was “terrified to come to Collegiate… [and] had never taught high school.” A Richmond native herself, Ms. Seay, her identical twin Emily, and her little sister Erika all attended James River High School. Prior to coming to Collegiate, she had heard of it but did not know anyone here. “I’m home, but it’s like a whole different kind of being home,” she says about teaching at Collegiate. Not only does she teach courses such as Rhetoric and Composition and the Literature of Elegy and Redemption, but she has also helped start an after-school service program. Every afternoon she takes a group of students to either Ridge Elementary School or Byrd Middle School to tutor students.
Before coming to Collegiate, Ms. Seay worked at a daycare, got her license as an aesthetician, was an editor for a literary magazine, and was the assistant director of the writing program at UNC Greensboro. What remained constant throughout her time between graduating from University of Mary Washington and coming to Collegiate was her writing. “It’s all about discipline,” she says. “When people ask me how I have the time to write, it’s like when someone asks how you have the time to eat… it’s part of my nourishment.”
BATHING, BY ALLISON SEAY
I have been alone with the thing itself.
The depression. The defective heart. God.
Inside my mind it is dawn. A wolf appears with a bird
in its mouth. Blue feathers, my fate, the beautiful white throat.
When asked what her most common subject is, Ms. Seay replied, “I tend to believe that artists have one true subject. I don’t mean to be morbid or bleak, but my subject seems to be sadness, the managing of, the resurrection from. I seem to always be circling the same things: faith and doubt, the past and present, the public and private, the known and unknown. Maybe one day I’ll write jokes, or cat poems.”
AB Bugg (‘16), who read Ms. Seay’s book while taking her Rhetoric and Composition English elective, says “it helped me realize how lucky I was to have her as a teacher and appreciate the class even more because of how talented she is, and how full of meaning her writing was. I don’t even know if she knows I read it, but I feel as if I got to know her in one way through reading her book, and got to know her in a completely different way by taking her class. Overall, her writing would just leave me sort of speechless after reading it, and I would have to take a second to really think about the beauty that I had just read.” Ms. Seay’s resilience and impact on students is summed up by Carly Hayes (‘16), who described her as “stronger than I can imagine. She is a gift to any who are fortunate enough to talk to her, and she truly leads a thoughtful, examined life.”