Marie Howe was born in 1950 in Rochester, New York. She worked as a newspaper reporter and teacher before receiving her MFA from Columbia University in 1983.
Howe is the author of New and Selected Poems (W. W. Norton, 2024); Magdalene (W. W. Norton, 2017), which was long-listed for the National Book Award; The Kingdom of Ordinary Time (W. W. Norton, 2009), which was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize; What the Living Do (W. W. Norton, 1998); and The Good Thief (Persea Books, 1988), which was selected by Margaret Atwood for the 1987 National Poetry Series. What the Living Do is in many ways an elegy for Howe’s brother, John, who died of AIDS in 1989. In 1995, she coedited the anthology In the Company of My Solitude: American Writing from the AIDS Pandemic (Persea, 1995).
About poetry and everyday life, Howe notes:
This might be the most difficult task for us in postmodern life: not to look away from what is actually happening. To put down the iPod and the email and the phone. To look long enough so that we can look through it—like a window.
The poet Stanley Kunitz called her poetry “luminous, intense, and eloquent, rooted in an abundant inner life.” He selected her for a Lavan Younger Poets Award from the Academy of American Poets in 1988. About Howe, Academy of American Poets Chancellor Arthur Sze said:
Marie Howe’s poems are remarkable for their focused, intense, and haunting lyricism. Her poems characteristically unfold through a series of luminous particulars that gather emotional power as they delve into the complexities of the human heart. Her poems are acclaimed for writing through loss with verve, but they also find the miraculous in the ordinary and transform quotidian incidents into enduring revelation.
Howe’s other awards include the 2015 Academy of American Poets Fellowship, as well as grants from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, the Bunting Institute, and the National Endowment for the Arts.
Howe has taught at Tufts University and Dartmouth College, among other institutions. In 2018, she was elected a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets. She currently teaches at both New York University and Sarah Lawrence College and lives in New York City.