Mark Nowak was born in 1964 to a working-class family and raised in Buffalo, New York. He earned his BA from Canisius College in Buffalo and his MFA from Bowling Green State University in Ohio.
Nowak is the author of four poetry collections: Social Poetics (Coffee House Press, 2020); Coal Mountain Elementary (Coffee House Press, 2009); Shut Up Shut Down (Coffee House Press, 2004); and Revenants (Coffee House Press, 2000). Also a playwright, essayist, social critic, and labor activist, Nowak’s writing documents the hardships and injustices faced by the global working class.
In the afterword to Shut Up Shut Down Amiri Baraka writes,
Nowak relies on his life as a person […] with the sturdy underpinning of class […] and brings it back, humming. And sleek with seeing and hearing! We get a sharp eye, a literary & philosophical broadening of what used to be labeled ‘working class poetry,’ … deepened with a hard but contemporary lyric and narrative. A much needed parade.
Nowak is the recipient of the Freedom Plow Award for Poetry & Activism from Split This Rock and a Guggenheim Fellowship. He has taught at St. Catherine University and Washington College, where he also worked as the director of the Rose O’Neill Literary House. He has led poetry workshops for workers and trade unions in Belgium, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, the United States, and South Africa. He is currently a professor of English at Manhattanville College and the founding director, in collaboration with PEN America, of the Worker Writers School. Nowak splits his time between Manhattan and upstate New York.