Mary A. Koncel was born and raised in Chicago, where she completed her BFA in poetry at Columbia College, before coming east to the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, where she took an MFA in English.

A long-time devotee of the prose poem, Koncel has published work widely in journals and appeared in anthologies such as The Party Train: A Collection of North American Prose Poetry, The Best of the Prose Poem: An International Journal, and Real Things: An Anthology of Popular Culture in American Poetry. In 1999 Quale Press published her chapbook, Closer to Day. Most recently, ten of Koncel’s poems were included in the 2003 anthology No Boundaries: Prose Poems by 24 American Poets edited by Ray Gonzalez, and her full-length collection You Can Tell the Horse Anything will be published this fall by Tupelo Press.

Koncel’s prose poems are tightly focused mini-dramas of whimsy and poignancy. Using an eccentric array of voices, both human and animal, she blurs the line between the commonplace and the absurd, finding emotional touchstones in the most surreal situations. Her family of characters often find themselves in absurd and precarious positions, clinging to wreckage, hoping for some kind of redemption or insight into the human condition. There is a woman who needs to be told she is dead; Tommy Rodriguez is compelled by the voice of God to drive his naked family across Texas; a horse plots revenge on a snowy winter night; and the nervous collective “We” are desperately trying to raise the Babies.

While her work might be described as surreal or absurd, Koncel resists the label. “I think of [my characters] as teetering on the outer edge of reality,” she writes. Her poems, “microcosms of our own lives,” as she calls them, “remind us of our tenuous place in a world that is easily turned on its side.” Poet Maxine Chernoff calls Koncel “the Edward Hopper of prose poems, the geographer of lonely human landscapes where the light is all wrong and human loneliness overwhelming. But just as we are going to despair, she finds a bright corner in which something extraordinary takes place.” As poet Lee Upton puts it, “Mary Koncel can tell us anything, and we’ll listen – for each tender, quirky, wild and assured discovery from one of our premier prose poets.”

Koncel teaches in the Jacobsen Center for Writing at Smith, and lives in Worthington, MA, with her husband and many animals, small and large. Besides writing prose poetry and essays, she is an avid dressage rider.



Poems by Mary A. Koncel


Take Your Time





Poetry Center Reading:

      Fall 2003 (with BH Fairchild)