Marie Howe (born 1950 Rochester, New York) is an American poet. Her most recent poetry collection is Magdalene (W.W. Norton, 2017). In August 2012 she was named the State Poet for New York.[1][2][3]

Marie Howe
Marie howe 0396.JPG
Rochester, New York
Alma materUniversity of Windsor;
Notable awardsGuggenheim Fellowship;
National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship

Early lifeEdit

Howe is the second eldest of nine children. She attended Sacred Heart Convent School and earned her undergraduate degree from the University of Windsor.[4]


She worked briefly as a newspaper reporter in Rochester and as a high school English teacher in Massachusetts. Howe did not devote serious attention to writing poetry until she turned 30. At the suggestion of an instructor in a writers' workshop, Howe applied to and was accepted at Columbia University where she studied with Stanley Kunitz and received her M.F.A. in 1983.[5][6]

She has taught writing at Tufts University and Warren Wilson College. She is presently on the writing faculties at Columbia University, Sarah Lawrence College, and New York University.[7][8]

Her first book, The Good Thief, was selected by Margaret Atwood as the winner of the 1987 Open Competition of the National Poetry Series.[9] In 1998, she published her best-known book of poems, What the Living Do; the title poem in the collection is a haunting lament for her brother with the plain-spoken last line: "I am living, I remember you."

Howe's brother John died of an AIDS-related illness in 1989. "John’s living and dying changed my aesthetic entirely," she has said.[10] 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.

Her poems have appeared in literary journals and magazines including The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Poetry, Agni, Ploughshares, and Harvard Review.[11] Her honors include National Endowment for the Arts and Guggenheim fellowships.[12][13]

In January 2018, Howe was elected a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.[14]

Literary themes and styleEdit

Marie Howe is praised for her poetry which captures the metaphysical and spiritual dimensions of everyday life .[15] Her work explores the nature of the soul and the self through literary themes of life, death, love, pain, hope, despair, sin, virtue, solitude, community, impermanence, and the eternal.[16] Despite the strong themes in her writing, Howe subtly expresses these messages through the explanation of daily tasks and regular lifestyles in most of her poems.

Her first collection, The Good Thief (1988), was made philosophical and reflective with the incorporation of Biblical and mythical allusions. Margaret Atwood, who chose this book for the National Poetry Series, praised Howe’s “poems of obsession that transcend their own dark roots.”[15] Additionally, Stanley Kunitz noted, “Her long, deep-breathing lines address the mysteries of flesh and spirit, in terms accessible only to a woman who is very much of our time and yet still in touch with the sacred.” Such an esteemed review justified the selection of The Good Thief for the Lavan Younger Poets Prize from the American Academy of Poets.[17]

A year after the publication of her first poetry book (1989), Howe’s brother John died from AIDS. According to Howe in an AGNI interview, “John’s living and dying changed my aesthetic completely.”[15] Consequently in 1997, she published a second collection, What the Living Do, as an elegy for John which reflected a new style. Stripped of metaphors, her writing was described as “a transparent, accessible documentary of loss” by the Poetry of Foundation.[15][16]

In 2008, Howe distanced herself from the personal narrative and returned to the spiritual style in The Kingdom of Ordinary Time.[15] This is most representative of Howe’s style now, a balance between the ordinary and unordinary. It is best put by playwright Eve Ensler, who describes her poems as “a guide to living on the brink of the mystical and the mundane.”[16]

Honors and awardsEdit

Published worksEdit

Poetry Collections

  • Magdalene. W. W. Norton. 2017. ISBN 9780393285307.
  • The Kingdom of Ordinary Time. W. W. Norton. 2008. ISBN 9780393337341.
  • What the Living Do. W. W. Norton. 1998. ISBN 9780393318869.
  • The Good Thief (Persea Books, 1988) ISBN 9780892551279


  • In the Company of My Solitude: American Writing from the AIDS Pandemic, (ed., with Michael Klein, Persea Books, 1995) ISBN 9780892552085


  1. ^ "Capitol Confidential » Cuomo announces state author Alison Lurie, poet Marie Howe". Capitol Confidential. 29 August 2012. Retrieved 18 March 2015.
  2. ^[dead link]
  3. ^ "Blue Flower Arts". Retrieved 18 March 2015.
  4. ^ "Marie Howe". Retrieved 18 March 2015.
  5. ^ "New York State Writers Institute > Writers Online: Vol. 6, No. 2, Spring 2002 Marie Howe Profile". Retrieved 2017-07-23.
  6. ^ "Sarah Lawrence College: MFA Writing Faculty > Marie Howe Bio". Retrieved 2017-07-23.
  7. ^ "Marie Howe". Retrieved 18 March 2015.
  8. ^ "Marie Howe, Faculty of CWP - NYU". Retrieved 18 March 2015.
  9. ^ "Book Winners". The National Poetry Series. Retrieved 20 March 2018.
  10. ^ "AGNI Online: Complexity of the Human Heart: A Conversation with Marie Howe by David Elliott". Archived from the original on 19 June 2015. Retrieved 18 March 2015.
  11. ^ "Blue Flower Arts". Retrieved 18 March 2015.
  12. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2006-08-11. Retrieved 2006-09-23.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  13. ^ "Search Results". Retrieved 18 March 2015.
  14. ^ "Marie Howe"
  15. ^ a b c d e Foundation, Poetry (2020-04-12). "Marie Howe". Poetry Foundation. Retrieved 2020-04-12.
  16. ^ a b c "Marie Howe". Retrieved 2020-04-12.
  17. ^ Poets, Academy of American. "About Marie Howe | Academy of American Poets". Retrieved 2020-04-12.
  18. ^ "Marie Howe". Retrieved 18 March 2015.
  19. ^ "National Endowment for the Arts: Forty Years of Supporting American Writers: Literature Fellowships" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on Aug 11, 2006. Retrieved Jan 7, 2020.
  20. ^ "Robert Creeley Foundation » Award – Robert Creeley Award". Retrieved 2018-03-22.


External linksEdit