Marie Ponsot Passes Away – Poetry News July 8th

We begin the week here on My Poetic Side with the news that the poet Marie Ponsot has passed away aged 98.

Marie Ponsot Dies at 98

Marie Ponsot, who was a winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award and a poet, passed away on Friday in hospital at the age of 98.

Born in Ponsot, Marie began her career as a published poet in the 1950s but as a single mother living in New York City with seven young children to bring up put it to one side in order to do what she needed to. She didn’t give up the writing altogether however, filling notepads with her verses and then filing them away. The only people she showed her poetry to were her friends.

It wasn’t until around 25 years later that her poetry began to resurface, and she immediately found wide approval.

During the course of her lengthy career, she was responsible for the translation of dozens of volumes and she also published a number of volumes of her own poetry. She was awarded the National Book Critics Circle Award and also lectured at Queens College. She was elected to the Academy of American Poets in 2012.

Ponsot’s first poetry collection was published by Lawrence Ferlinghetti in the 1950s. It was published as part of the same series as work by Allen Ginsberg. Ferlinghetti and Ponsot had met in Paris previously and become good friends; it was also during this time that she met Claude Ponsot a painter and her future husband.

Although she was published by Ferlinghetti, her poetry was very different to the style of the Beats poets, who were his more well-known clients. Her style was more love poetry, and formal.

When Ponsot published her second book of poetry in 1981, after a 25-year gap, she paid special attention to some of the poems that had appeared in her first collection the title of the second collection, just like the first drew on Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116. The second volume was of course very different to the first. Not only had she been through a divorce, but she also had many years of single motherhood behind her as well. The first poem of the second collection was in fact addressed to her husband and titled “For a Divorce”.

It was her fourth collection “The Bird Catcher” which was published in 1998 which received national recognition.

A practising Roman Catholic, Ponsot counted the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins as one of her heroes, and over the years the two have been compared by a number of critics for the similarities that appear in the way in which they both wrote.

When Ponsot got a new editor, a plan was formulated to create a collection of some of Ponsot’s unpublished works, of which there were a huge number just stashed away in a drawer. This collection was published in the late 1990s.

In 2016 she published her final collection of poetry.

Marie Ponsot is survived by her seven children, 16 grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.

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