Martin Farawell, Program Director, Poetry
Research Assistance: Rebecca Gambale, Festival Assistant
In a publishing career that has spanned nearly six decades, Marie Ponsot has written poems ranging from some so short and compressed they make haikus seem verbose, to others of near Whitmanesque scope. She is equally adept in free verse and in the most challenging traditional forms, and the tone of her poems ranges from despondent, to deeply philosophical, to romantic, to whimsical.
What remains consistent in her body of work is the clarity of her vision and the quality of her ear. Her poems often build by moving from one exact, concise image to the next, and she is attentive to all the senses. But Ponsot also seems to possess the poet’s equivalent of what is called perfect pitch among singers and musicians.
Whether writing formal or free verse, each line, each word, each syllable is carefully weighed and measured for how it contributes to the shape of the whole. Ponsot has said “There’s a human desire to put the body’s pulse into the poem,” and she pays close attention to the rhythms of the body, of speech and of the natural world. The vital connection to poetry as something that moves, physically, through the body, the vocal chords and the air is present in all her poems.
She developed her craft over decades spent writing in relative obscurity. Between the publication of her first collection, True Minds, in 1957, and her second, Admit Impediment, in 1981, she raised seven children. She worked actively as a translator throughout those years, publishing now classic versions of many traditional fables and fairy tales. But her poetry was often written at night, when she could grab a few minutes for herself at the end of the day. In this way, she developed her own unique voice, which, since her re-emergence as a publishing poet, has garnered her critical praise and numerous awards.
Marie Ponsot’s most recent collection is Easy, published in 2009. Springing: New and Selected Poems offers a generous selection from her first four volumes. Visit the OnLine NewsHour for a reading and interview with Marie Ponsot.
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