Orel Protopopescu, award-winning author, poet, and translator, has written her first biography, Dancing Past the Light: The Life of Tanaquil Le Clercq (University Press of Florida, 2021). It is also the first biography of the ballerina, Balanchine's last wife, whose brilliant career was stopped by polio on a 1956 tour. Until 1977, "Tanny," as almost everyone called her, taught from a wheelchair at the Dance Theatre of Harlem. The recollections of Le Clercq's former students (enhanced by photos) enrich this portrait of an immensely gifted, generous and inclusive woman who insisted on having the fullest possible life. The book, illustrated by 100 photos, many never before published, is now available: https://upf.com/book.ask?id+9780813069029 To read the first 6 pages and see several photos, click on the above link, then on "press materials" and "excerpt." Also available on Amazon and other sites: https:www.amazon.com/Dancing-Past-Light-Tanaquil-Clercq/dp/0813069025
Orel's poetry has appeared in numerous reviews and anthologies, most prominently in Oberon Poetry, where she won a first honorable mention from the Pulitzer prize-winning poet Louis Simpson, subsequent honorable mentions, and first prize in the 2010 and 2020 contests. Her 2010 winner, selected by the poet L. S. Asekoff, is "Listening to My Favorite Things from the Best of John Coltrane," also published in the anthology, The Poeming Pigeon:Poems About Music, in 2016. It is posted on this website, along with "Boxes," her 2020 Oberon winner (judge, poet and short story writer, Philip Asaph). Another poem that first appeared in Oberon, "My Father Beyond the Pale," won commended status in the Second Light Live Poetry Competition, 2016, published in Great Britain in November of that year. Her poetry has also appeared in Spoon River Poetry Review, Poetry Bay, Light Poetry Magazine, Lighten Up Online, New Verse News, Socialism and Democracy, and in the chapbook, What Remains (Finishing Line Press, 2011).
Recent poetry for children has appeared in Spider Magazine and Better Than Starbucks! https://anthonywatkins.wixsite.com/btsjul2020/poetry-for-children. "Bees," was selected for a permanent museum installation in the Beezantium, an exhibit at The Newt in Somerset, UK, that opened in 2021.
A Thousand Peaks, Poems from China (with Siyu Liu), a book of translations and history, was selected for the New York Public Library’s Books for the Teen Age, 2003 list. Two Sticks is on Bank Street College of Education’s Best Children’s Books of the Year 2008 list. Thelonious Mouse (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2011) her second, highly-praised collaboration with the illustrator, Anne Wilsdorf, was the winner of the Crystal Kite Award, 2012, for SCBWI, NY Metro region. Her book for teachers, Metaphors & Similes You Can Eat and Twelve More Poetry Writing Lessons (Scholastic, 2003), includes some of her children's poetry. It has inspired thousands of wonderful poems from children in grades 4-8 and, quite possibly, a few picture books written by adults.
Orel's first two picture books, Since Lulu Learned the Cancan and The Perilous Pit (a New York Times Best-illustrated Book, illustrated by Jacqueline Chwast) were both published by Simon & Schuster and became iPad apps from Auryn, Inc.
A native speaker of English, Orel is fluent in French. She and her husband, Serban, have lived in France for extended periods. Her interactive, bilingual, animated poetry app for iPad, A Word's a Bird, Spring Flies By in Rhymes, praised by poets Billy Collins and Naomi Shihab Nye, was chosen by School Library Journal as one of the best children's apps of 2013. It features poems Orel wrote and translated into French (Un Mot Est Un Oiseau) and was produced by Syntonie, an imprint of Actialuna, and illustrated by Jeanne B. de Sainte Marie. Orel is currently seeking ways to update it for newer platforms and to have the entire cycle of 13 poems (title poem, plus one for each season) published in book form, along with the Spanish translation, never incorporated into the app. She shared the English/French app as a visiting poet at Marymount School, Paris, and the American School of Paris in April-May, 2013. She has presented it to elementary schools and a junior college in the greater New York region.
A nurturing teacher of poetry and prose writing, Orel conducts writing workshops for students and teachers, as well as coaching college-bound students in essay-writing. Some of the latter were offered full four-year undergraduate scholarships. Professional writers among her friends have come to rely on her editorial judgment and encouragement. In the words of Christine Slatest, a former student who became an English teacher: “My interest in writing poetry began in Mrs. Protopopescu’s workshops. Her visits to my elementary school changed my life.”
Orel says, "I have never written for the market, but only what I felt moved to write. I have never written anything for children that I don't still enjoy reading aloud to them. They never fail to astonish and instruct me. I strive to make my books and poems for children inviting spaces where they can laugh, grow and dream."
Going where curiosity and passion take her, Orel is currently working on a nonfiction book about the universe with her husband, a particle physicist emeritus at Brookhaven National Laboratory who was instrumental in the discovery of the top quark. Just as the first drafts of Dancing Past the Light, it is envisioned as a book for teenage to adult readers, but books have a way of surprising their authors. This is Orel and Serban's first collaboration, although they have had decades of discussions about scientific matters. A poem Orel wrote after one of these talks, "Multiverses," was published in Light Poetry: https://lightpoetrymagazine.com/orel-protopopescu-summer-2016/