Marie Howe’s first book, The Good Thief, was selected by Margaret Atwood as the winner of the 1987 Open Competition of the National Poetry Series. Of her work, Atwood said “Marie Howe’s poetry doesn’t fool around. Reading it you feel interest always, delight often, and occasionally that cool wind at the back of the neck that makes you think there’s one more person in the room than there actually is. These poems are intensely felt, sparely expressed, and difficult to forget; poems of obsession that transcend their own dark roots.”
Marie Howe was born in 1950 in Rochester, New York, and was the oldest girl in her family of nine children. She attended Sacred Heart Convent School and earned her undergraduate degree from the University of Windsor. She began her professional life with a dedication to writing and words, working as a newspaper reporter and high school English teacher. Howe did not devote serious attention to writing poetry until she turned 30, when at the suggestion of an instructor in a writers’ workshop, she applied to Columbia University where she studied with poet Stanley Kunitz. Howe received her M.F.A. in 1983.
In 1998, she published a book of poems entitled What the Living Do. The title poem in the collection is an elegy to her brother John, who died of an AIDS-related illness in 1989. “John’s living and dying changed my aesthetic entirely,” she has said. In 1995, Howe co-edited with Michael Klein, a collection of essays, letters, and stories entitled In the Company of My Solitude: American Writing from the AIDS Pandemic.
Thinking about poetry and everyday life, Howe searches for quiet: “This might be the most difficult task for us in postmodern life: not to look away from what is actually happening. To put down the iPod and the e-mail and the phone. To look long enough so that we can look through it—like a window.” Fellow poet Stanley Kunitz selected her for a Lavan Younger Poets Award from the Academy of American Poets in 1988. Her poems have appeared in literary journals and magazines including The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Poetry, and Harvard Review. Her most recent book, The Kingdom of Ordinary Time was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in 2008. Her other awards include fellowship grants from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, the Bunting Institute, and the National Endowment for the Arts. She has taught at Tufts University and Dartmouth College, and currently teaches at Sarah Lawrence College, New York University, and Columbia University. She lives in New York City with her daughter.
The Good Thief (1988)
In the Company of My Solitude: American Writing from the AIDS Pandemic (editor, with Michael Klein, 1995)
What the Living Do (1998)
The Kingdom of Ordinary Time (2008)
Essay: “Not to Look Away” in Oprah Magazine
Poem: “The Star Market” in The New Yorker
Video: Marie Howe reading “The Gate” on PBS: Poetry Everywhere with Garrison Keillor
Video: Marie Howe at the New York State Writers Institute in 2008
Interview: Bomb Magazine