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Paul Mariani was born in New York City and grew up there and on Long Island. He earned his bachelor’s degree in 1962 from Manhattan College, a master’s degree from Colgate University, and a PhD from the City University of New York (CUNY) under the mentorship of Allen Mandelbaum, a fellow poet and a translator of Dante Alighieri’s The Divine Comedy.
Mariani is the author of nine poetry collections: All That Will Be New (Slant Books, 2022); Ordinary Time (Slant Books 2020); Epitaphs for the Journey (Cascade Books, 2012); Deaths & Transfigurations (Paraclete Press, 2005); The Great Wheel (W. W. Norton, 1996); Salvage Operations: New & Selected Poems (W. W. Norton, 1990); Prime Mover (W. W. Norton, 1985), Crossing Cocytus (Grove Press, 1982); and Timing Devices (Godine, 1979).
Mariani’s books of prose include The Mystery of It All: The Vocation of Poetry in the Twilight of Modernity (Paraclete Press, 2019); Thirty Days: On Retreat with the Exercises of St. Ignatius (Viking, 2002); God and the Imagination: On Poets, Poetry, and the Ineffable (University of Georgia Press, 2002); A Useable Past: Essays, 1973–1983 (University of Massachusetts Press, 1984); William Carlos Williams: The Poet and His Critics (American Library Association, 1975); and A Commentary on the Complete Poems of Gerard Manley Hopkins (Cornell University Press, 1970). Mariani has also authored six biographies: The Whole Harmonium: The Life of Wallace Stevens (Simon & Schuster, 2016); Gerard Manley Hopkins: A Life (Viking, 2008); The Broken Tower: A Life of Hart Crane (W. W. Norton, 1999), a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, a selection of the Poetry Book Club of the Academy of American Poets, a recipient of the Ohioana Award, a finalist for the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, and a source text for the feature-length film The Broken Tower (2012); Lost Puritan: A Life of Robert Lowell (W. W. Norton, 1994), also named a New York Times Notable Book of the Year; Dream Song: The Life of John Berryman (W. Morrow, 1990); and William Carlos Williams: A New World Naked (McGraw-Hill, 1981), which won the New Jersey Writers Award, was short-listed for an American Book Award, and was also named a New York Times Notable Book of the Year.
Mariani’s honors include fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. In 2009, he received the John Ciardi Award for Lifetime Achievement in Poetry and, in 2022, the Flannery O’Connor Lifetime Achievement Award from Loyola University Chicago.
Mariani was a distinguished university professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where he taught from 1968 until 2000, and then Boston College, where he taught from 2000 until his retirement in 2016, and where he served as university chair in English. For fifteen years, he taught at the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference and, for another fifteen, at the Image Conferences in Colorado, Santa Fe, and Seattle. Mariani also served as poetry editor of America Magazine from 2000 to 2006. He lives in Montague, Massachusetts.