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About this poet

Born in New York City on November 27, 1942, Marilyn Hacker was the only child of a working-class Jewish couple, each the first in their families to attend college. Hacker attended the Bronx High School of Science before enrolling at New York University, where she received a BA in Romance Languages in 1964.

Hacker moved to London in 1970, where she worked as a book dealer. With the mentorship of Richard Howard, then the editor of The New American Review, Hacker's first collection of poems, Presentation Piece, was published by the Viking Press in 1974. The collection was both the Lamont Poetry Selection of the Academy of American Poets and the recipient of the National Book Award.

In 1976, Hacker's second collection of poems, Separations, was published by Alfred A. Knopf, followed by Taking Notice (Alfred A. Knopf, 1980) and Assumptions (Alfred A. Knopf, 1985). In 1986, Hacker published Love, Death, and the Changing of the Seasons (Arbor House), an autofictional narrative told mainly through sonnets. In 1990, she published Going Back to the River (Vintage Books), for which she received a Lambda Literary Award.

Hacker's 1994 collection, Winter Numbers (W. W. Norton), details the loss of many of her friends to both AIDS and cancer, and explores her own struggle with breast cancer. The collection, which was in many ways darker than Hacker's previous work, won both the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize and a Lambda Literary Award.

Since then, Hacker has published many more collections, including Names (W. W. Norton, 2010); Desesperanto: Poems 1999-2002 (W. W. Norton, 2003); First Cities: Collected Early Poems 1960-1979 (W. W. Norton, 2003); and Squares and Courtyards (W. W. Norton, 2000). A Stranger’s Mirror: New and Selected Poems 1994-2013, will be published by W. W. Norton in the winter of 2014. 

About Hacker's work, the poet Jan Heller Levi has said:

"I think of her magnificent virtuosity in the face of all the strictures to be silent, to name her fears and her desires, and in the process, to name ours. Let's face it, no one writes about lust and lunch like Marilyn Hacker. No one can jump around in two, sometimes even three, languages and come up with poems that speak for those of us who sometimes barely think we can even communicate in one. And certainly no one has done more, particularly in the last decade of formalism, to demonstrate that form has nothing to do with formula. In villanelles, sestinas, and sonnets—not to mention a variety of forms whose names I can't even pronounce—Marilyn Hacker can journey us on a single page through feelings as confusing as moral certainty to feelings as potentially empowering as unrequited passion."

Hacker is also highly regarded for her criticism, editing, and translation. She served as editor of The Kenyon Review from 1990 to 1994. As translator, she has published Claire Malroux's A Long-Gone Sun (Sheep Meadow Press, 2000) and Birds and Bison (Sheep Meadow Press, 2004); Vénus Khoury-Ghata's collections Here There Was Once a Country (Oberlin College Press, 2001), She Says (Graywolf Press, 2003), and Nettles (Graywolf Press, 2008); Guy Goffette’s Charlestown Blues (Princeton University Press, 2007); Marie Ettiene's King of a Hundred Horsemen: Poems (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008), which received the PEN Award for poetry in translation; Hédi Kaddour’s Treason (Yale, 2010); Emmanuel Moses’s He and I (Oberlin, 2010); Rachida Madani’s Tales of a Severed Head (Yale, 2012); and Habib Tengour’s Crossings (Post-Apollo Press, 2013). 

Her essay collection, Unauthorized Voices, was published by Michigan in 2010. 

Hacker has received numerous honors, including the Bernard F. Conners Prize from the Paris Review, the John Masefield Memorial Award of the Poetry Society of America, the PEN Voelcker Award, the Argana International Poetry Prize from the Beit as-Shir/House of Poetry in Morocco, and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the Ingram Merrill Foundation.

In 2008, she was elected a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.

She lives in Paris.


Selected Bibliography

Poetry

A Stranger’s Mirror: New and Selected Poems 1994-2013 (W. W. Norton, forthcoming 2015). 
Names (W. W. Norton, 2010)
Desesperanto: Poems 1999-2002 (W. W. Norton, 2003)
First Cities: Collected Early Poems 1960-1979 (W. W. Norton, 2003)
Squares and Courtyards (W. W. Norton, 2000)
Selected Poems: 1965-1990 (W. W. Norton, 1994)
Winter Numbers (W. W. Norton, 1994)
Going Back to the River (Vintage Books, 1990)
Love, Death, and the Changing of the Seasons (Arbor House, 1986)
Assumptions (Alfred A. Knopf, 1985)
Taking Notice (Alfred A. Knopf, 1980)
Separations (Alfred A. Knopf, 1976)
Presentation Piece (Viking Press, 1974)


Translation

King of a Hundred Horsemen: Poems by Marie Ettiene (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008)
Nettles by Vénus Khoury-Ghata (Graywolf Press, 2008)
Birds and Bison by Claire Malroux (Sheep Meadow Press, 2004)
She Says by Vénus Khoury-Ghata, (Graywolf Press, 2003)
Here There Was Once a Country by Vénus Khoury-Ghata (Oberlin College Press, 2001)
A Long-Gone Sun by Claire Malroux (Sheep Meadow Press, 2000)


Multimedia

From the Image Archive

 

Iva's Pantoum

Marilyn Hacker, 1942
We pace each other for a long time.
I packed my anger with the beef jerky.
You are the baby on the mountain. I am 
in a cold stream where I led you.

I packed my anger with the beef jerky.
You are the woman sticking her tongue out 
in a cold stream where I led you.
You are the woman with spring water palms.

You are the woman sticking her tongue out.
I am the woman who matches sounds.
You are the woman with spring water palms.
I am the woman who copies.

You are the woman who matches sounds.
You are the woman who makes up words. 
You are the woman who copies
her cupped palm with her fist in clay.

I am the woman who makes up words.
You are the woman who shapes
a drinking bowl with her fist in clay.
I am the woman with rocks in her pockets.

I am the woman who shapes.
I was a baby who knew names.
You are the child with rocks in her pockets.
You are the girl in a plaid dress.

You are the woman who knows names.
You are the baby who could fly.
You are the girl in a plaid dress
upside-down on the monkey bars.

You are the baby who could fly
over the moon from a swinging perch
upside-down on the monkey bars.
You are the baby who eats meat.

Over the moon from a swinging perch
the feathery goblin calls her sister.
You are the baby who eats meat
the bitch wolf hunts and chews for you.

The feathery goblin calls her sister:
"You are braver than your mother.
The bitch wolf hunts and chews for you.
What are you whining about now?"

You are braver than your mother
and I am not a timid woman:
what are you whining about now?
My palms itch with slick anger,

and I'm not a timid woman.
You are the woman I can't mention;
my palms itch with slick anger.
You are the heiress of scraped knees.

You are the woman I can't mention
to a woman I want to love.
You are the heiress of scaped knees:
scrub them in mountain water.

To a woman, I want to love
women you could turn into,
scrub them in mountain water,
stroke their astonishing faces.

Women you could turn into
the scare mask of Bad Mother
stroke their astonishing faces
in the silver-scratched sink mirror.

The scare mask of Bad Mother
crumbles to chunked, pinched clay,
sinks in the silver-scratched mirror.
You are the Little Robber Girl, who

crumbles the clay chunks, pinches
her friend, givers her a sharp knife.
You are the Little Robber Girl, who
was any witch's youngest daughter.

Our friend gives you a sharp knife,
shows how the useful blades open.
Was any witch's youngest daughter
golden and bold as you? You run and

show how the useful blades open.
You are the baby on the mountain. I am 
golden and bold as you. You run and 
we pace each other for a long time.

From First Cities by Marilyn Hacker. Copyright © 2003, 1980, 1979, 1975, 1974, 1973, 1972, 1970, 1969 by Marilyn Hacker. Used by permission of W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. All rights reserved.

From First Cities by Marilyn Hacker. Copyright © 2003, 1980, 1979, 1975, 1974, 1973, 1972, 1970, 1969 by Marilyn Hacker. Used by permission of W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. All rights reserved.

Marilyn Hacker

Marilyn Hacker

Born in New York City on November 27, 1942, Marilyn Hacker is a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.

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for Fadwa Soleiman

Said the old woman who barely spoke the language:
Freedom is a dream, and we don’t know whose.
Said the insurgent who was now an exile:
When I began to write the story I started bleeding.

Freedom is a dream, and we don’t know whose—
that man I last saw

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