April 6, 1921
|Died||July 5, 2019 (aged 98)|
Manhattan, New York, U.S.
Marie Ponsot (née Birmingham; April 6, 1921 - July 5, 2019) was an American poet, literary critic, essayist, teacher, and translator. Her awards and honors included the National Book Critics Circle Award, Delmore Schwartz Memorial Prize, the Robert Frost Poetry Award, the Shaughnessy Medal of the Modern Language Association, the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize from the Poetry Foundation, and the Aiken Taylor Award for Modern American Poetry.
Ponsot was born in Brooklyn, New York, the daughter of Marie Candee, a public school teacher, and William Birmingham, an importer. She grew up in Jamaica, Queens along with her brother. She was already writing poems as a child, some of which were published in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. After graduating from St. Joseph's College for Women in Brooklyn, Ponsot earned her master's degree in seventeenth-century literature from Columbia University. After the Second World War, she journeyed to Paris, where she met and married Claude Ponsot, a painter and student of Fernand Léger. The couple lived in Paris for three years, during which time they had a daughter. Her friend the American artist Lawrence Ferlinghetti published her first book of poetry, True Minds, in 1956. Later, Ponsot and her husband relocated to the United States. The couple went on to have six sons before divorcing. She was left with seven children and she was not publishing her poetry.
Upon returning from France, Ponsot worked as a freelance writer of radio and television scripts. She also translated 69 children's books from the French, including The Fables of La Fontaine.
She co-authored with Rosemary Deen two books about the fundamentals of writing, Beat Not the Poor Desk and Common Sense.
Ponsot taught a poetry thesis class, as well as writing classes, at the Poetry Center of the 92nd Street Y. She also taught at the YMCA, Beijing United University, New York University, and Columbia University, and she served as an English professor at Queens College in New York, from which she retired in 1991.
Ponsot authored several collections of poetry, including The Bird Catcher (1998), a finalist for the 1999 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize and the winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award, and Springing: New and Selected Poems (2002), which was named a "notable book of the year" by The New York Times Book Review.
Among her awards were a creative writing grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Delmore Schwartz Memorial Prize, The Robert Frost Poetry Award, the Shaughnessy Medal of the Modern Language Association, the 2013 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize from the Poetry Foundation, and the 2015 Aiken Taylor Award for Modern American Poetry.