Irwin, Mark 1953-

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IRWIN, Mark 1953-


Born April 9, 1953, in Faribault, MN; son of William Thomas and Mary Lou (Milliron) Irwin; married Lisa Utrata; children: Heather Utrata. Education: Case Western Reserve University, B.A., 1974; Ph.D, 1982; University of Iowa, M.F.A., 1980. Hobbies and other interests: Hiking, wildlife preservation, entomology.


Home—3875 South Cherokee St., Englewood, CO 80110-3511. E-mail—[email protected].


Poet and educator. Cleveland Institute of Art, Cleveland, OH, associate professor, 1985-90; Fort Lewis College, Durango, CO, assistant professor, 1990-92. Visiting poet at University of Denver, 1992-93, Ohio University—Athens, 1993-94, University of Colorado—Boulder, 1997-2000, University of Nevada-Las Vegas, 2001, and Colorado College, 2001—.


Poetry Society of America.


Wright-Plaisance traveling fellowship, 1977; Fullbright traveling fellowship to Romania, 1981; Nation /Discovery Award, 1984; Ohio Arts Council fellowship, 1985-86; Helene Wurlitzer Foundation fellowship, 1988; Lilly Foundation grant, 1989; National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, 1993; Pushcart Prize, 1994-95, 1997-98, 2003-04; Colorado Recognition Literary Award, 1996, 2002; Colorado Book Award, 2001.



(Translator) Ardis Anthology of Eastern European Poetry, Ardis (New York, NY), 1982.

(Translator) Philippe Denis, Notebook of Shadows: Selected Poems, 1974-1980, Globe Press (Cleveland, OH), 1982.

(Translator) Nichita Sta'nescu, Ask the Circle to Forgive You, 1983.

Umbrellas in the Snow, 1985.

The Halo of Desire, Galileo Press (Baltimore, MD), 1987.

Against the Meanwhile (Three Elegies), Wesleyan University Press (Middletown, CT), 1988.

Quick, Now, Always, BOA Editions (Rochester, NY), 1996.

White City, BOA Editions (Rochester, NY), 2000.

(Editor) Many Mountains Moving: A Tribute to W. S. Merwin, Many Mountains Moving (Boulder, CO), 1999.

Bright Hunger, BOA Editions (Rochester, NY), 2004.

Contributor of poems to periodicals, including Antaeus, American Poetry Review, Atlantic, Kenyon Review, Nation, and New Republic.


Award-winning poet Mark Irwin is noted for collections that include Against the Meanwhile (Three Elegies), Quick, Now, Always, and White City, the last a work in which, a Kirkus Reviews contributor explained, the poet takes a measure of "what America, particularly the American West, has lost or left behind along the route of its forced march into the 21st century." Calling Irwin's style "beautiful and frustrating," Melissa Studdard Wiliamson characterized the poet's approach in her American Book Review piece on White City: "Irwin is a poet who looks into the world and sees more questions than answers.…big questions, inquiries that explore the nature of existence, meaning, and reality. They are questions that lead to meditation on transience versus permanence, tangibility versus intangibility, movement versus stasis." In the Boston Book Review Pamela Alexander notes that lyric poets "often set out to give us a Moment, an intensely sensory instant that stands above ordinary experince." Alexander considers Irwin a "splendid lyricist, startling us awake into such moments.… White City brims with them, rendered in flexible, inventive, sometimes mysterious language."

In the American Book Review Patrick Pritchett hailed Against the Meanwhile (Three Elegies) as "a highly accomplished volume of reflections on entropy and the rituals we use to combat it." According to a Virginia Quarterly Review contributor, the 1988 volume, Irwin's third collection, shows "how endings are interwoven with creation and rebirth" in the poems included: "The Wisdom of the Body," "Against the Meanwhile," and "Circling," and added that the poet "seeks, and finds …a certain order and beauty amid the constant change, evolution, and disorder" of a world threatened with nuclear annihilation. Pritchett noted that Against the Meanwhile "confirmed [Irwin] …as a writer of acute observational skills and lyrical limpidity." Comparing Irwin to poet Rainer Maria Rilke, Ohio Review contributor George Looney noted that, similar in theme to Rilke's Duino Elegies, Irwin's work features "an intricate noticing of the natural world, the kind of noticing that comes from the hands-on experience with perishing and renewal someone who cared for growing things acquires, the deep-rooted passion of the person who has reached under the earth and felt to cool region where life and death intertwine."

Irwin's 1996 collection Quick, Now, Always delves into the political with such poems as "Bucharest 1981" and "6 August 1945." Calling the verses in the collection "vibrant and alert" and "poetry to contend with," Pritchett explained in his American Book Review appraisal that Irwin requires readers "to reflect on the fundamental uncertainty that underlies reason itself," while in Chelsea critic Randall H. Watson characterized the book as "a jagged, heartbroken, and ecstatic excursus on the late twentieth century, a race through troubled paradise." Also laudatory, a Publishers Weekly contributor praised Quick, Now, Always as "brilliant" and noted that Irwin's "intellect and the urgency of his words remain traditionally steadfast."

In addition to his work as a poet, Irwin has also brought the works of European-born poets to English-speaking readers through his translation of Notebook of Shadows: Selected Poems, 1974-1980 by French writer Philippe Denis and the verse of Eastern European poet Nichita Staescu, which Irwin translated as Ask the Circle to Forgive You.



American Book Review, August, 1996, Patrick Prichett, review of Quick, Now, Always p. 19; January, 2001, Melissa Studdard Williamson, review of White City, p. 25.

Boston Book Review, September, 2000, Pamela Alexander, review of White City.

Chelsea, Volume 61, 1996, Randall H. Watson, review of Quick, Now, Always, pp. 143-145.

Choice, April, 1988, W. J. Martz, review of The Halo of Desire, p. 1244.

Kirkus Reviews, January 15, 2000, review of White City, p. 83.

Library Journal, August, 1987, Rochelle Ratner, review of The Halo of Desire, p. 129.

North American Review, March, 1988, p. 72.

Ohio Review, spring, 1990, George Looney, "Keeping the World Going," pp. 116-128.

Publishers Weekly, August 26, 1988, Penny Kaganoff, review of Against the Meanwhile, p. 83; February 26, 1996, review of Quick, Now, Always, p. 101.

Virginia Quarterly Review, summer, 1989, review of Against the Meanwhile, p. 99.

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Irwin, Mark 1953-

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