Born in Washington, D.C., Cate Marvin was raised as the only child of a C.I.A. intelligence analyst and an editor for the Crime Prevention Council. After graduating from Marlboro College, she received an MFA in poetry from the University of Houston and an MFA in fiction from the Iowa Writers' Workshop. She went on to earn her PhD in English and comparative literature from the University of Cincinnati.
Marvin's first book, World's Tallest Disaster (Sarabande Books, 2001), won the Kathryn A. Morton Prize in Poetry. Her second collection, Fragment of the Head of a Queen, was published by Sarabande Books in 2007. She also co-edited Legitimate Dangers: American Poets of the New Century (Sarabande Books, 2006).
A review of Marvin's work in Publishers Weekly referred to her as a "postmodern Plath", noting: "Marvin can make you laugh at crying and cry at laughing, yet few works so rife with satire ever took the human condition more seriously...Even at its most composed, it flashes with temper, merging the metaphysical and the dramatic, and arriving at unpredictable resolutions."
In addition to the Kathryn A. Morton Prize, Marvin's honors include the Kate Tufts Discovery Award, the Whiting Award, and a NYFA Gregory Millard Fellowship. She teaches at Columbia University.