Kinzie, Mary 1944-

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Kinzie, Mary 1944-

PERSONAL: Born September 30, 1944, in Montgomery, AL; daughter of Harry Ernst and Mary Louise Kinzie; divorced; children: Phoebe Larson. Education: Northwestern University, B.A. (with honors), 1967; Johns Hopkins University, M.A., 1970, Ph.D., 1980; additional graduate study at Free University of Berlin.

ADDRESSES: Office—Northwestern University, English Department, University Hall 215, Evanston, IL 60208-2240. E-mail[email protected]

CAREER: Northwestern University, Evanston, IL, professor of English, 1975—, director of undergraduate creative writing program, 1979—, Martin J. and Patricia Koldyke Outstanding Teaching Professor, 1990-92; Estate of Louise Bogan, literary executor, 2001.

AWARDS, HONORS: Awards and grants from Illinois Arts Council, between 1977 and 1993; DeWitt Wallace fellow at MacDowell Colony, 1979; Devins Award, 1982, for The Threshold of the Year: Poems; Guggenheim fellow in poetry, 1986; Elizabeth Matchett Stover Memorial Award in poetry, Southwest Review, 1987; President’s Fund for the Humanities grant, Northwestern University, 1990-91; Cecil B. Wagner Award, Poetry Society of America, 1988; Fulbright fellow in Germany; Woodrow Wilson fellow.


(Editor, with Elliott Anderson) The Little Magazine in America: A Modern Documentary History, Pushcart Press (Yonkers, NY), 1978.

The Threshold of the Year: Poems, University of Missouri Press (Columbia, MO), 1982.

Masked Woman (poetry), 1990.

Summers of Vietnam and Other Poems, Sheep Meadow (Bronx, NY), 1990.

(Editor and author of introduction) The Tales of Arturo Vivante, Sheep Meadow (Bronx, NY), 1990.

Autumn Eros and Other Poems, Knopf (New York, NY), 1991.

The Cure of Poetry in an Age of Prose: Moral Essays on the Poet’s Calling (criticism), University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 1993.

The Judge Is Fury: Dislocation and Form in Poetry (criticism), University of Michigan Press (Ann Arbor, MI), 1994.

Ghost Ship (poetry), Knopf (New York, NY), 1996.

A Poet’s Guide to Poetry (criticism), University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 1999.

Drift: Poems, Alfred A. Knopf (New York, NY), 2003.

(Editor and author of introduction) Louise Bogan, A Poet’s Prose: Selected Writings of Louise Bogan; With the Uncollected Poems, Swallow Press/Ohio University Press (Athens, OH), 2005.

California Sorrow: Poems, Alfred A. Knopf (New York, NY), 2007.

Editor and author of introduction, Prose for Borges. Contributor of poetry and essays to periodicals, including Salmagundi, Modern Philology, and Antaeus. Tri-Quarterly, executive editor, 1975-78, guest editor, 1991; past staff reviewer, American Poetry Review.

SIDELIGHTS: Mary Kinzie is a poet, critic, and educator. She has won a number of awards for her work, including a DeWitt Wallace fellowship at the MacDowell Colony in 1979, a Guggenheim fellowship in poetry in 1986, and a Fulbright fellowship to Germany. She has written several volumes of poetry and criticism, as well as serving as editor on a number of additional books.

A Poet’s Guide to Poetry, published in 1999, offers readers and aspiring poets a thorough reference book on the structure and techniques of poetry. The book is divided into six sections, covering the concepts of line, syntax, diction, trope, rhetoric, and rhythm, and how they build upon each other to create a poem. Kinzie focuses primarily on sentence-level structure, showing how it is only once this is mastered that individual segments can be combined into larger ideas and effects. In so doing, she lessens the impression of poetry as an art of pure aesthetics and lofty ideas and aligns it more firmly with the structure and syntax of well-written prose, thereby making it a more accessible form. Scott Hightower, reviewing the book for Library Journal, praised Kinzie’s efforts, noting that, “while scholarly, this is also clear, unpedantic, and substantive.”

Kinzie collected and edited A Poet’s Prose: Selected Writings of Louise Bogan; With the Uncollected Poems, which combines short fiction, journal excerpts, letters, and critical essays by Louise Bogan (1897-1970). Bogan was a talented critic as well as a poet, and for many years she served as the New Yorker’s poetry reviewer. While Kinzie includes some of Bogan’s previously uncollected poems as well, it is clear that these are less polished than her published poetry. They primarily serve to show the development of her style rather than standing on their own merits as works of interest. The highlight of the volume is the critical work, which gives readers insights into the work of many of the poets that Bogan reviewed, as well as a taste of her sharp wit and intellect. Bogan’s letters and journal excerpts offer readers a fuller picture of her personal life and relationships, too, particularly her friendship with noted intellectuals such as Edmund Wilson and her friendship and love affair with Theodore Roethke. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly observed: “Self-aware, self-berating and perpetually anxious about her poetic output, Bogan has a sharp and at times neurotic mind fully on display.” Poetry reviewer Danielle Chapman noted the importance of the volume for aspiring female poets, in particular, commenting that “as a self-styled ‘minor poet’ and critic, Bogan took on a role that men have filled comfortably for centuries, and produced a compelling, durable body of work.”

It is with her own poetry that Kinzie has been most prolific, publishing numerous collections, including The Threshold of the Year: Poems, Masked Woman, Summers of Vietnam and Other Poems, Autumn Eros and Other Poems, and Ghost Ship. In Drift: Poems, published in 2003 after a break of approximately seven years, Kinzie offers a collection of quiet, vivid poems with an array of unusual imagery and heavy-hitting word choices. In a review for Booklist, Donna Seaman found Kinzie’s vocabulary to be “dense and weighted with meaning, thrumming with a pent-up power, a tamped-down fire that ignites slowly.” Daniel L. Guil-lory noted in Library Journal Kinzie’s growth with this volume compared to her previous offerings, calling Drift “a more hard-edged, experimental, and intellectual effort, where the true subject is always the elusiveness of consciousness.” The poems address the duality of many of life’s inescapable forces, such as time, which allows for the slow creation of nature and beauty and wonder but at the same time brings age and loss and erosion of the spirit, as well as, eventually, death. Poetry critic Martha C. Nussbaum quoted Kinzie’s “Looking In at Night”: “Every year the marble more decayed, / The lines less clear. Time starts its slide.” Kinzie goes on to focus on more human influences, such as bigotry and racism, hatred and violence, particularly in terms of men committing violence toward women. Nussbaum went on: “Poetry itself, Kinzie suggests in this book, is one way of stripping disguises away, as if to say: when language is clear, then, perhaps, we can see one another in the clear.”

Kinzie’s next volume of poetry, California Sorrow: Poems, reflects the strong influences of a number of poets on her style, with homage paid to the works of e.e. cummings, William Carlos Williams, and Wallace Stevens. She also bases several poems on definitions gleaned from the dictionary, creating works that are verbally powerful with strong images and emotions jumping from the page. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly praised Kinzie’s effort, claiming that the volume reflects “a writer willing to smash her poems to smithereens and then rebuild them as she attempts to meet her own stringent demands.” Booklist contributor Donna Seaman observed the volume’s rooting in nature and landscape, as well as the link to personal realities, stating: “Kinzie’s poems are artful acts of perception, vigilance, and compassion.”



Booklist, February 1, 2003, Donna Seaman, review of Drift: Poems, p. 964; September 15, 2007, Donna Seaman, review of California Sorrow: Poems, p. 16.

Library Journal, February 15, 1999, Scott Hightower, review of A Poet’s Guide to Poetry, p. 150; February 1, 2003, Daniel L. Guillory, review of Drift, p. 95.

Poetry, January, 2004, Martha C. Nussbaum, “For Once Clear to See,” review of Drift, p. 235; September, 2005, Danielle Chapman, review of A Poet’s Prose: Selected Writings of Louise Bogan; With the Uncollected Poems, p. 450.

Publishers Weekly, May 30, 2005, review of A Poet’s Prose, p. 52; August 20, 2007, review of California Sorrow, p. 50.*