Smith College Admission Academics Student Life About Smith news Offices
News Release

March 8, 2004

Poets Marie Howe and Marie Ponsot to Read at Smith College

NORTHAMPTON, Mass. -- Smith College will present a poetry reading by Marie Howe and Marie Ponsot at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, March 23, in Wright Hall Auditorium. The event is free and open to the public.

Howe sees her work as an act of confession, or of conversation. She says simply, "Poetry is telling something to someone." According to her mentor, the distinguished poet Stanley Kunitz, Howe's 'telling' is "luminous, intense, eloquent."

Part of the urgency and importance of Howe's work 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. It was chosen by Publisher's Weekly as one of the five best books of poetry published in 1997. Howe went on to co-edit "In the Company of My Solitude: American Writing from the AIDS Pandemic."

Howe's poetry is intensely intimate, and her bravery in laying bare the music of her own pain is part of its resonance. Kunitz selected Howe for a Lavan Younger Poets Prize from the American Academy of Poets, and poet and novelist Margaret Atwood named Howe's first collection, "The Good Thief," for the National Poetry Series. She has, in addition, been a fellow at the Bunting Institute at Radcliffe College and a recipient of NEA and Guggenheim fellowships. Currently, Howe teaches creative writing at Sarah Lawrence College and at New York University.

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 publications of Ponsot's first and second books; in the interim she was busy translating 37 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.

Howe and Ponsot's reading will be followed by a bookselling and signing. For more information, contact Cindy Furtek in the Poetry Center office at (413) 585-4891 or Ellen Doré Watson, Poetry Center director, at (413) 585-3368.


Office of College Relations
Smith College
Garrison Hall
Northampton, Massachusetts 01063

Marti Hobbes
News Assistant
T (413) 585-2190
F (413) 585-2174

Smith in the News

News Releases

Contact Us

DirectoryCalendarCampus MapVirtual TourContact UsSite A-Z