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About this poet

Born in Washington, D.C. in 1969, 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 the College of Staten Island in New York.

Oracle

Cate Marvin, 1969

Dead girls don't go the dying route to get known.
You’ll find us anonymous still, splayed in Buicks,
carried swaying like calves, our dead hefts swung
from ankles, wrists, hooked by hands and handed
over to strangers slippery as blackout. Slammed
down, the mud on our dress is black as her dress,
worn out as a throw-rug beneath feet that stomp
out the most intricate weave. It ought not sadden
us, but sober us. Sylvia Plath killed herself. She ate
her sin. Her eye got stuck on a diamond stickpin.
You take Blake over breakfast, only to be bucked
out your skull by a cat-call crossing a parking lot.
Consuming her while reviling her, conditioned to
hate her for her appetite alone: her problem was
she thought too much? Needling an emblem’s ink
onto your wrist, the surest defense a rose to reason
against that bluest vein's insistent wish. Let’s all
us today finger-sweep our cheek-bones with two
blood-marks and ride that terrible train homeward
while looking back at our blackened eyes inside
tiny mirrors fixed inside our plastic compacts. We
could not have known where she began given how
we were, from the start, made to begin where she
ends. In this way, she's no way to make her amends.


About this poem:
"Plath has been my poetic mainstay for the past two decades. 'Oracle' was composed after rereading The Bell Jar alongside accounts of the rape of a 16 year old girl that occurred in Steubenville, OH, this past August 2012. It's a terrible pair of anxieties that dominate this poem: the suicide of an author I love deeply (that occurred fifty years ago) alongside the attempt to destroy a young woman (fifty years later). I wish to add that it's my opinion Sylvia Plath lived a hell of a lot more than she died."

Cate Marvin

Copyright © 2013 by Cate Marvin. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on February 11, 2013. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

Copyright © 2013 by Cate Marvin. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on February 11, 2013. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

Cate Marvin

Cate Marvin

Marvin's first book, World's Tallest Disaster (Sarabande Books, 2001), won the Kathryn A. Morton Prize in Poetry

by this poet

poem
You think I like to stand all day, all night,
all any kind of light, to be subject only
to wind? You are right. If seasons undo
me, you are my season. And you are the light
making off with its reflection as my stainless
steel fins spin.

		On lawns, on lawns we stand,
we windmills make a statement. We turn air,
poem
You are like a war novel, entirely lacking
female characters, except for an occasional 
letter that makes one of the men cry. 

        I am like a table 
        that eats its own legs off
        because it’s fallen 
        in love with the floor.

My frantic hand can’t find where my leg
went. You can play
poem
Spokes, spooks: your tinsel hair weaves the wheel
that streams through my dreams of battle. Another
apocalypse, and your weird blondeness cycling in
and out of the march: down in a bunker, we hunker,
can hear the boots from miles off clop. We tend to
our flowers in the meantime. And in the meantime, 
a daughter