Marie Ponsot’s verse is both naked and refined, and frequently darts off in unexpected directions. The San Francisco Chronicle described her as “one of the most elegant, intelligent poets around.”

Ponsot’s first book was published in the legendary City Lights series the same year as Ginsberg’s Howl. As a result, the book didn’t receive the attention it deserved, and she was initially seen as a Beat poet, when in truth she’s more a metaphysical poet, and writes in difficult forms like the villanelle, the sestina, and the tritina. She is known for verbal precision and syntactic complexity. And while she admits it may sound “unfashionable,” her poems “are meant to be beautiful.”

Ponsot has always been fiercely independent. Decades passed between the publication of Ponsot’s first and second books; in the interim she was busy translating thirty-seven books from French and single-handedly raising seven children. Since then, she has published three more collections, including The Bird Catcher, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award, and new and selected poems, Springing, and gained wide acclaim. Other honors include the Delmore Schwartz Memorial Prize, and the Shaugnessy Medal of the Modern Language Association.

Poet and critic William Logan observed that Ponsot “finds more drama in spending a day at the beach, or telling a story to some sleepy youngsters, than most poets could in the fall of Troy.” Earthy and erudite, sprightly and wise, at 82 this native New Yorker is finally receiving her due.


Poems by Marie Ponsot


One is One

The Story after the Story



    Poetry Center Reading:
    Spring 2004 (with Marie Howe)