Marie Ponsot

Marie Ponsot /ˌpɒnˈs/ (née Birmingham; April 6, 1921 – July 5, 2019) was an American poet, literary critic, essayist, teacher, and translator. Her awards and honors included the National Book Critics Circle Award, Delmore Schwartz Memorial Prize, the Robert Frost Poetry Award, the Shaughnessy Medal of the Modern Language Association, the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize from the Poetry Foundation, and the Aiken Taylor Award for Modern American Poetry.

Marie Ponsot
Marie Birmingham

(1921-04-06)April 6, 1921
DiedJuly 5, 2019(2019-07-05) (aged 98)
Manhattan, New York, U.S.
Claude Ponsot
(div. 1970)


Ponsot was born in Brooklyn, New York, the daughter of Marie Candee, a public school teacher, and William Birmingham, an importer.[1] She grew up in Jamaica, Queens along with her brother. She was already writing poems as a child, some of which were published in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. After graduating from St. Joseph's College for Women in Brooklyn, Ponsot earned her master's degree in seventeenth-century literature from Columbia University. After the Second World War, she journeyed to Paris, where she met and married Claude Ponsot, a painter[1] and student of Fernand Léger. The couple lived in Paris for three years, during which time they had a daughter. Her friend the American artist Lawrence Ferlinghetti published her first book of poetry, True Minds, in 1956.[2] Later, Ponsot and her husband relocated to the United States. The couple went on to have six sons before divorcing. She was left with seven children and she was not publishing her poetry.[1]

Upon returning from France, Ponsot worked as a freelance writer of radio and television scripts. She also translated 69 children's books from the French, including The Fables of La Fontaine.

She co-authored with Rosemary Deen two books about the fundamentals of writing, Beat Not the Poor Desk and Common Sense.

Ponsot taught a poetry thesis class, as well as writing classes, at the Poetry Center of the 92nd Street Y. She also taught at the YMCA, Beijing United University, New York University, and Columbia University, and she served as an English professor at Queens College in New York, from which she retired in 1991.

She was the Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets from 2010 to 2014.[2]

Ponsot lived in New York City until her death at NewYork–Presbyterian Hospital on July 5, 2019.[3]

Ponsot was a mentor to many younger poets and writers. Sapphire wrote an essay in her honor for an event celebrating the 2009 publication of Ponsot's collection entitled Easy.[4] Poet Marilyn Hacker has described her as being "one of the major poets of her generation."[5] Ponsot was also a lifelong friend and mentor to Hacker and science fiction writer Samuel R. Delany.[6]


Ponsot authored several collections of poetry, including The Bird Catcher (1998), a finalist for the 1999 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize[7] and the winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award, and Springing: New and Selected Poems (2002), which was named a "notable book of the year" by The New York Times Book Review.

Among her awards were a creative writing grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Delmore Schwartz Memorial Prize, The Robert Frost Poetry Award, the Shaughnessy Medal of the Modern Language Association,[2] the 2013 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize from the Poetry Foundation,[8] and the 2015 Aiken Taylor Award for Modern American Poetry.[9]

Selected bibliographyEdit

  • True Minds, City Lights Pocket Bookshop, (1956)[2]
  • Admit Impediment, Knopf, (1981)
  • The Green Dark, Knopf, (1988) ISBN 978-0-394-57054-9
  • The Bird Catcher, Knopf, (1998) ISBN 978-0-375-40135-0
  • Springing: New and Selected Poems, A.A. Knopf, (2002) ISBN 978-0-375-41389-6[7]
  • Easy: Poems. Random House, Inc. 2009. ISBN 978-0-307-27218-8.
  • Collected Poems, Knopf (2016) ISBN 978-1101947678.[7]


  • Jean de La Fontaine (2002). Benjamin Ivry (ed.). Love & folly: selected fables and tales of LaFontaine. Translator Marie Ponsot. Welcome Rain Publishers. ISBN 978-1-56649-227-0.
  • Hans Christian Andersen (1958). The Fairy tale book: a selection of twenty-eight traditional stories from the French, German, Danish, Russian, and Japanese. Translator Marie Ponsot. Simon and Schuster.



  1. ^ a b c Taylor, Tess (July 6, 2019). "Marie Ponsot, Poet of Love, Divorce and Family, Dies at 98". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved May 1, 2020.
  2. ^ a b c d Poets, Academy of American. "About Marie Ponsot | Academy of American Poets". Retrieved May 1, 2020.
  3. ^ Taylor, Tess (July 7, 2019). "Marie Ponsot, Poet of Love, Divorce and Family, Dies at 98". Retrieved December 5, 2021 – via
  4. ^ "Magnanimous, Magnificent: A Marie Ponsot Tribute, with remarks by Sapphire". Poetry Society of America. Retrieved February 25, 2022.
  5. ^ Hacker, Marilyn (2003). "The Poet at 80: A Tribute to the Aging Poet Marie Ponsot Is Full of the Imagery of Vigor and Growth". The Women's Review of Books. JSTOR. 20 (10/11): 12. doi:10.2307/4024237. ISSN 0738-1433.
  6. ^ Delany, Samuel R. The Journals of Samuel R. Delany: In Search of Silence. Edited by Kenneth R. James. Middletown, Connecticut: Weslyan University Press, 2017. page 29.
  7. ^ a b c "Marie Ponsot > Compare Discount Book Prices & Save up to 90% >". Retrieved May 1, 2020.
  8. ^ "Marie Ponsot Awarded $100,000 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize". Writers Write. March 22, 2013. Retrieved January 26, 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  9. ^ "Sewanee Review announces Marie Ponsot as the recipient of Aiken Taylor Award in modern American poetry". Sewanee Today. February 26, 2015. Retrieved January 26, 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)

External linksEdit