Marie Howe

Acclaimed Poet & Teacher
NY State Poet Laureate (2012-2014)


"[P]oetry of intimacy, witness, honesty, and relation." —"The Boston Globe


“Marie Howe's poetry is luminous, intense, and eloquent, rooted in an abundant inner life. 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.” —Stanley Kunitz


Marie Howe is the author of three volumes of poetry, The Kingdom of Ordinary Time (2008); The Good Thief (1998); and What the Living Do (1997), and is the co-editor of a book of essays, In the Company of My Solitude: American Writing from the AIDS Pandemic (1994). Stanley Kunitz selected Howe for a Lavan Younger Poets Prize from the American Academy of Poets. She has, in addition, been a fellow at the Bunting Institute at Radcliffe College and a recipient of NEA and Guggenheim fellowships. Her poems have appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Poetry, Agni, Ploughshares, Harvard Review, and The Partisan Review, among others. Currently, Howe teaches creative writing at Sarah Lawrence College, Columbia, and New York University. She is the 2012-2014 Poet Laureate of New York State.

New York State Poet Laureate Citation

Marie Howe wowed readers and critics alike with her first book of poems, The Good Thief. Selected by Margaret Atwood as the 1989 winner of the National Poetry Series, the book explored the themes of relationship, attachment, and loss in a uniquely personal search for transcendence. Said Atwood, "Marie Howe's poetry doesn't fool around...these poems are intensely felt, sparely expressed, and difficult to forget; poems of obsession that transcend their own dark roots." Howe sees her work as an act of confession or of conversation. She says simply, "Poetry is telling something to someone."

Marie Howe interview with Terry Gross on Fresh Air

Marie Howe interview with Krista Tippett on On Being

Howe's equally acclaimed second book, What the Living Do, addressed the grief of losing a loved one. "The tentative transformation of agonizing, slow-motion loss into redemption is Howe's signal achievement in this wrenching second collection," said Publisher's Weekly, in choosing it as one of the five best volumes of poetry published that year. Part of the urgency and importance of Howe's poetry stems from its rootedness in real life—just ten minutes into her 1987 residence at the MacDowell Colony, Howe received a call from her brother John telling her that her mother had had a heart attack. Two years later, John died of AIDS, and her book What the Living Do is in large part an elegy to him. Howe's poetry is intensely intimate, and her bravery in laying bare the music of her own pain–but never the pain alone—is part of its resonance. Inside each poem there is also a joy, a new breath of life, some kind of redemption. "Each of them seems a love poem to me," says Howe.

"The Hard Times Companion" by Marie Howe in O Magazine

"Not to Look Away" by Marie Howe in O Magazine

Hurrying through errands, attending a dying mother, helping her own child down the playground slide, the speaker in these poems wonders what is the difference between the self and the soul? The secular and the sacred? Where is the kingdom of heaven?  And how does one live in Ordinary Time—during those periods that are not apparently miraculous? These are astonishing poems by a poet known as “a truth-teller of the first order.”

About WHAT THE LIVING DO (Poetry, 1999)
This compassionate memorial to illness and the loss of Howe's brother, John, and other friends ably depicts the growth and development of personal bonds against which "post-modern brokenness" is measured. (Howe has also coedited an important collection of essays about AIDS, In the Company of My Solitude, Persea Books). This thoughtful analysis of elements of grief ("a living remedy") will perhaps help to ease trauma of death, as does Robert Frost's "Home Burial," but full comprehension of "cherishing" and pain after "the wake and the funeral" seems impossible. The best of these empathetic poems demonstrate a longing for wholeness and appreciation of the "terrified and radiant" mysteries of silence. —Library Journal

Marie Howe website