Bang, Mary Jo 1946-
Bang, Mary Jo 1946-
Born October 22, 1946, in Waynesville, MO; daughter of Eugene D. Ward and Helen Sergeant. Education: Northwestern University, B.A. (summa cum laude), 1971, M.A., 1975; Westminster University, London, B.A. (with distinction), 1989; Columbia University, M.F.A., 1998.
Home—St. Louis, MO. Office—Department of English, Writing Program, 1 Brookings Dr., Washington University, St. Louis, MO 63130. E-mail—[email protected]
Poetry editor, Boston Review, 1995-2005; Washington University, St. Louis, MO, associate professor of English and director of the writing program.
PEN, National Book Critics Circle, Modern Language Association, Poetry Society of America, Academy of American Poets, Poets House.
"Discovery"/Nation award, 1995; Katherine Bakeless Nason Prize for Poetry, Middlebury College, 1996, for Apology for Want; Great Lakes College Association New Writers Award, 1998; Hodder Fellowship, Princeton University, 1999; award from University of Georgia Contemporary Poets Series Competition, 2000; Alice Fay di Castagnola Award, Poetry Society of America, 2000, for Louise in Love, and 2005, for Elegy; Guggenheim Foundations fellow, 2004; also winner of the Pushcart Prize.
Apology for Want, University Press of New England (Hanover, NH), 1997.
Louise in Love, Grove (New York, NY), 2001.
The Downstream Extremity of the Isle of Swans, University of Georgia Press (Athens, GA), 2001.
The Eye like a Strange Balloon: Poems, Grove (New York, NY), 2004.
Elegy, Graywolf Press (St. Paul, MN), 2007.
Contributor of poetry to periodicals, including the New Republic, Yale Review, Kenyon Review, Volt, Paris Review, New Yorker, and New American Writing. Bang's poetry has also been represented in several anthologies, including Best American Poetry, 2001, 2004, and 2007.
Mary Jo Bang is an acclaimed poet whose first collection, Apology for Want, received the Katherine Bakeless Nason Prize for first book of poetry in 1996. Her other works include Louise in Love, The Downstream Extremity of the Isle of Swans, and The Eye like a Strange Balloon: Poems.
There is a "quiet anarchy" in the poetry of Apology for Want, wrote Susan Conley in Ploughshares. Conley noted that the subject matter of the work is culturally American, the poetry's voice is "subversive and unsettling." Bang's poetry shows readers an avenue to "a new way of looking at what we've grown into," argued Frank Allen in the American Book Review.
Many critics were enthusiastic in their response to the collection. Allen found Bang's imagery contained "beautiful, difficult thought." Ellen Kaufman in Library Journal called the collection "allusive," arguing that Apology for Want demonstrates "occasional flashes of brilliance."
The poems in the collection Louise in Love focus on a woman named Louise and her family and friends, including her boyfriend Ham and her sister Lydia. The characters have not been completely fleshed out, and the adventures they embark on have a dream-like quality about them. The overall themes dealing with life and death are unraveled in verse some reviewers compared to noted writers John Keats and Virginia Woolf. "Her language is musical," observed Donna Seaman in a review for Booklist. Many reviewers lauded Bang's poetry in this collection, finding it fresh and surprising at every turn. Readers will "delight in Bang's unsparing … time-channeling," noted one Publishers Weekly contributor.
In 2004, Bang published the poetry collection The Eye like a Strange Balloon. Rather than focus on a specific set of characters like Louise in Love, this book consists of poems demonstrating ekphrasis, or poetry based on works of art. She describes in detail artwork by the likes of Redon Odilon, Max Ernst, Paula Rego, and more, to the point that the original subject matter is almost forgotten. Together the poems speak about the idea of art itself. Reviewers again praised Bang's efforts with this volume, citing the poetry's vividness and intricacy. This "superbly crafted work" comes alive on the page, wrote Booklist contributor Donna Seaman. Others carried similar sentiments in regard to the poet's deft use of language. There is "music in Bang's lines," noted E.M. Kaufman in a review for the Library Journal. In one review, Antioch Review contributor Malinda Markham simply asserted: "Read this book."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Book Review, January, 1999, Frank Allen, review of Apology for Want, p. 28; July, 2002, review of The Downstream Extremity of the Isle of Swans, p. 28.
Antioch Review, summer, 2005, Malinda Markham, review of The Eye like a Strange Balloon: Poems, p. 600.
Booklist, January 1, 2001, Donna Seaman, review of Louise in Love, p. 902; November 15, 2004, Donna Seaman, review of The Eye like a Strange Balloon, p. 547.
Chelsea, 1998, review of Apology for Want, p. 128.
Kirkus Reviews, December 15, 2000, review of Louise in Love, p. 1728.
Library Journal, August, 1997, Ellen Kaufman, review of Apology for Want, p. 92; December, 2000, Ellen Kaufman, review of Louise in Love, p. 145; January 1, 2005, E.M. Kaufman, review of The Eye like a Strange Balloon, p. 116.
New York Times Book Review, March 4, 2001, David Kirby, review of Louise in Love, p. 23.
New Yorker, October 6, 1997, review of Apology for Want, p. 123.
Ploughshares, winter, 1997, Susan Conley, review of Apology for Want, p. 214; spring, 2003, Mary Jo Bang, "The Eye like a Strange Balloon Mounts Toward Infinity," p. 14.
Prairie Schooner, fall, 2003, Molly Bendall, review of Louise in Love, p. 185.
Publishers Weekly, July 28, 1997, review of Apology for Want, p. 71; November 6, 2000, review of Louise in Love, p. 84; October 18, 2004, review of The Eye like a Strange Balloon, p. 61.
Sewanee Review, summer, 2003, David Biespiel, "Free-verse Styles," p. 470.
Jacket Magazine,http://jacketmagazine.com/ (December 5, 2006), biography of Mary Jo Bang.
Powells.com,http://www.powells.com/ (December 5, 2006), Jill Owens, review of Louise in Love.
Washington University in St. Louis, Writing Program Web site,http://artsci.wustl.edu/ (December 5, 2006), biography of Mary Jo Bang.