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About this poet

Native New Yorker, Marie Ponsot was born in Brooklyn on April, 6 1921. She has published numerous works, including Easy (Alfred A. Knopf, 2009); Springing: New and Selected Poems (Alfred A. Knopf, 2002); The Bird Catcher (Alfred A. Knopf, 1998), which won the National Book Critics Circle Award and was a finalist for the 1999 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize; The Green Dark (Alfred A. Knopf, 1988); Admit Impediment (Alfred A. Knopf, 1981); and True Minds (City Lights Pocket Bookshop, 1957).

When asked why poetry matters, Ponsot replied: "There's a primitive need for language that works as an instrument of discovery and relief, that can make rich the cold places of our inner worlds with the memorable tunes and dreams poems hold for us."

About her work, poet and critic Susan Stewart has said:

What she has written of her relation to the night sky—'it becomes the infinite / air of imagination that stirs immense / among losses and leaves me less desolate'—could be claimed by her readers as a description of her own work, which pulls us always to forms of thought and attention that surprise and enlarge and cheer us.

Ponsot, who also translates books from the French, has taught in graduate programs at Queens College, Beijing United University, the Poetry Center of the YMHA, and New York University. Her honors include the Delmore Schwartz Memorial Prize, a creative writing grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, the 2013 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, and the Shaughnessy Medal of the Modern Language Association.

Marie Ponsot teaches in the graduate writing program at Columbia University. She was elected a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets in 2010. She lives in New York City.


Selected Bibliography

Easy (Alfred A. Knopf, 2009)
Springing: New and Selected Poems (Alfred A. Knopf, 2002)
The Bird Catcher (Alfred A. Knopf, 1998)
The Green Dark (Alfred A. Knopf, 1988)
Admit Impediment (Alfred A. Knopf, 1981)
True Minds (City Lights Pocket Bookshop, 1957)

Springing

Marie Ponsot, 1921
In a skiff on a sunrisen lake we are watchers.

Swimming aimlessly is luxury just as walking 
loudly up a shallow stream is.

As we lean over the deep well, we whisper.

Friends at hearths are drawn to the one warm air; 
strangers meet on beaches drawn to the one wet sea.

What wd it be to be water, one body of water 
(what water is is another mystery) (We are 
water divided.) It wd be a self without walls, 
with surface tension, specific gravity a local
exchange between bedrock and cloud of falling and rising, 
rising to fall, falling to rise.

(1962)

Excerpted from Springing by Marie Ponsot. Copyright © 2002 by Marie Ponsot. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced without permission in writing from the publisher.

Excerpted from Springing by Marie Ponsot. Copyright © 2002 by Marie Ponsot. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced without permission in writing from the publisher.

Marie Ponsot

Marie Ponsot

The author of numerous works, Marie Ponsot won the National Book Critics Circle Award for her collection The Bird Catcher and served as a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets

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The place of language is the place between me

and the world of presences I have lost

—complex country, not flat. Its elements free-

float, coherent for luck to come across;

its lines curve as in a mental orrery

implicit with stars in active orbit,

only their slowness or swiftness lost to sense.

The will