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About this poet

Mary Jo Bang was born on October 22, 1946, in Waynesville, Missouri, and grew up in Ferguson, which is now a suburb of St. Louis. She received a BA and an MA in sociology from Northwestern University, a BA in photography from the Polytechnic of Central London, and an MFA in creative writing from Columbia University.

Bang is the author of several books of poems, including A Doll for Throwing (Graywolf Press, 2017), The Last Two Seconds (Graywolf Press, 2015), The Bride of E: Poems (Graywolf Press, 2009), and Elegy (Graywolf Press, 2007), which won the 2007 National Book Critics Circle Award in Poetry and was a 2008 New York Times Notable Book. Her books Louise in Love (Grove Press, 2001) and Elegy both received the Poetry Society of America's Alice Fay di Castagnola Award for a manuscript-in-progress. Her first book, Apology for Want (Middlebury College, 1997), was chosen by Edward Hirsch for the 1996 Bakeless Prize. 

About her collection Elegy, which traces the aftermath of her son's death, Wayne Koestenbaum writes: "Mary Jo Bang's remarkable elegies recall the late work of Ingeborg Bachmann—a febrile, recursive lyricism. Like Nietzsche or Plath, Bang flouts naysayers; luridly alive, she drives deep into aporia, her new, sad country. Her stanzas, sometimes spilling, sometimes severe, perform an uncanny death-song, recklessly extended—nearly to the breaking point."

Bang's work has been chosen three times for inclusion in the Best American Poetry series. She is the recipient of numerous awards, including a "Discovery"/The Nation award, a Pushcart Prize, a fellowship from the Guggenheim Foundation, and a Hodder Award from Princeton University. 

Bang was the poetry coeditor of the Boston Review from 1995 to 2005. She lives in St. Louis, Missouri, where she is a professor of English and the director of the creative writing program at Washington University.


Bibliography

A Doll for Throwing (Graywolf Press, 2017)
The Last Two Seconds (Graywolf Press, 2015)
The Bride of E: Poems (Graywolf Press, 2009)
Elegy (Graywolf Press, 2007)
The Eye Like a Strange Balloon (Grove Press, 2004)
The Downstream Extremity of the Isle of the Swans (University of Georgia Press, 2001)
Louise in Love (Grove Press, 2001)
Apology for Want (Middlebury College, 1997)

 

Self-Portrait in the Bathroom Mirror

Some days, everything is a machine, by which I mean remove any outer covering, and you will most likely find component parts: cogs and wheels that whirr just like an artificial heart, a girl in a red cap redacting the sky, fish that look like blimps and fish-like blimps, an indifferent lighthouse that sweeps the horizon. I wasn’t a child for long and after I wasn’t, I was something else. I was this. And that. A blast furnace, a steel maze inside, the low-level engine room of an ocean liner. My eye repeats horizontally what I by this time already know: there is no turning back to be someone I might have been. Now there will only ever be multiples of me.
 

From A Doll for Throwing by Mary Jo Bang. Copyright © 2017 by Mary Jo Bang. Used by permission of The Permissions Company, Inc., on behalf of Graywolf Press, www.graywolfpress.org.

From A Doll for Throwing by Mary Jo Bang. Copyright © 2017 by Mary Jo Bang. Used by permission of The Permissions Company, Inc., on behalf of Graywolf Press, www.graywolfpress.org.

Mary Jo Bang

Mary Jo Bang

Mary Jo Bang is the author of several books of poems, including A Doll for Throwing (Graywolf Press, 2017). Her poems have been chosen three times for inclusion in the Best American Poetry series.

by this poet

poem

Relative to status and state, one often finds the strategic depiction of an implicated myth: man v. god, fire, female, followed by a beeline drawn to the end of the garden. Outside, the concrete sky and a clamor that might be described as a deafening mechanical distraction, the basic

poem
The foot goes forward, yes.
Yet there are roots. And a giant orb
which focuses its cyclopic eye
on a moiré morning.
When the microcosm is dry—it's earth;
wet—it's water.

Water, reeds, electric eel: one possibility.
Sun, reeds, dust mote and mite: another.
Whatever the elements
(it's urban/it's pastoral,
it's
2
poem
We were going toward nothing
all along. Honing the acoustics,
heralding the instant
shifts, horizontal to vertical, particle

to plexus, morning to late,
lunch to later yet, instant to over. Done
to overdone. And all against
a pet-shop cacophony, the roof withstanding

its heavy snow load. So, winter. And still
2