Marvin, Cate 1969–

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Marvin, Cate 1969–

(Catherine C. Marvin)


Born November 20, 1969, in Washington, DC. Education: Marlboro College, B.A.; University of Houston, M.F.A. (poetry); University of Iowa, M.F.A. (fiction); University of Cincinnati, Ph.D.


Home—Staten Island, NY. Office—City University of New York, College of Staten Island, 2800 Victory Blvd., Staten Island, NY 10314. E-mail—[email protected]; [email protected].


Academic and poet. City University of New York, College of Staten Island, Staten Island, NY, assistant professor then associate professor of creative writing, 2003—; Lesley University, Cambridge, MA, low-residency M.F.A. Program poetry writing instructor. New York Foundation for the Arts Gregory Millard fellow, 2007; founder of the Armand Schwerner Reading Series, 2004—.


Kathryn A. Morton Prize, 2000, for World's Tallest Disaster; Kate Tufts Discovery Prize, 2002, for an emerging poet of genuine promise; Whiting Award, 2007.


World's Tallest Disaster (poems), selected by Robert Pinsky, Sarabande Books (Louisville, KY), 2001.

(Editor, with Michael Dumanis) Legitimate Dangers: American Poets of the New Century, Sarabande Books (Louisville, KY), 2006.

Fragment of the Head of a Queen (poems), Sarabande Books (Louisville, KY), 2007.

Contributor to periodicals, including Poetry, Kenyon Review, Fence, Paris Review, Cincinnati Review, Slate, Verse, Boston Review, Ninth Letter, Literary Review, Mid-American Review, Pleiades, Sewanee TheologicalReview, Spin City, Provincetown Arts, Post Road, Los Angeles Times, Ploughshares, Gargoyle, Gulf Coast, Western Humanities Review, Explosive, Witness, Iowa Review of Cultural Studies, Georgia Review, Antioch Review, and New England Review.


Cate Marvin published her first collection of poems, World's Tallest Disaster, the poems of which were selected by Robert Pinsky, in 2001. The collection won the Kathryn A. Morton Prize in 2000, introducing the poetry world to Marvin's writing.

A contributor to Publishers Weekly described the debut book of poetry as a "taut, defiant, confessional collection." Amy Weldon, writing in the Carolina Quarterly, remarked that "Marvin's vivid, stylish phrasing and vignettes of modern life give this book freshness and appeal, especially to young women." Weldon summarized that "Marvin's poems display that ‘hunger’ inside us all."

In 2006, Marvin edited an anthology of poetry, Legitimate Dangers: American Poets of the New Century, with Michael Dumanis. A contributor to the Midwest Book Review observed that the anthology contains "innovative, and exciting poetry." The same contributor mentioned that each poet included in the anthology "has a unique voice and tone contributing to a singularly memorable and original omnibus."

The following year, Marvin published her second collection of poetry, Fragment of the Head of a Queen. The collection continues on themes of love but also explores issues of selfhood and of being in the world. A contributor to Publishers Weekly commented that readers who are able to "believe ‘all love / should be loud enough to scare off the neighbors’ will swoon for this work." Doris Lynch, writing in Library Journal, described the book as "an uneven collection." Lynch conceded, however, that the higher quality poems "far outweigh the bad, and even the lesser offerings provide interesting perspectives and surprises." Booklist contributor Donna Seaman called Marvin's poems "elegant." Seaman concluded that "Marvin snaps crisp metaphors onto the page like winning hands in poker." Joshua Butts, reviewing the collection in Octopus magazine, commented that "the best poems of the book, though, may be those that arrive with few characters, those that organize around an inhuman, or abstract core, as in the ‘Alibi Poem’ that provides a meditation about an alibi that ‘checks out’ and offers its own excuses." Butts pointed out that "Marvin's work has a heavy stink of ‘Mock Orange,’ and she, like [the American poet Louise] Glück, doesn't resist the ‘old boy’ school of Eliot and Yeats as influences. Marvin's brand of feminism is more the internal attack, the localized gesture of romantic negotiations." Butts summarized: "And for all the sensual mishap, romantic squabble, psychic conundrum, and concepts on the run, the inevitable sleep—toxic, medicinal, or terminal—one can perhaps find a sense of hope in Marvin's world. That is, if one has time to get this pill down the throat," appending that "one thing assured: John Webster, Sylvia Plath can rest easy. Their work is being carried on in the afterlife—somewhere on Staten Island."

Matthew Yeager, reviewing the collection in Coldfront magazine, commented that the author "hasn't repeated her first poems or dismissed them. Nor has she put her natural sensibility on hiatus. Rather, it's almost as if she took the edge of her hand and used it to slide up every setting on a stereo's equalizer. An overall sense of proportion remains, but all the qualities that defined World's Tallest Disaster have been amplified." Yeager said that "as you read through the book, there is an unusual feeling, not unlike coming upon the one building left standing after a city-leveling quake, that comes with finishing one of these poems—particularly those that seem more personal. This sense comes out of Marvin's manipulation of the illusion of creative order, i.e. the illusion an experience drives the poet to the desk and shapes how the particular experience will be written about. Yeager concluded that "the writing's concreteness, however, activates the Imagination. The heads remain heads, and the reading experience is visionary. As neither the Intelligence nor Imagination is allowed to win out or be shut down, this is mastery of the medium. Keeping in mind the title, the prevailing themes, the interplay between form and content, even the choice of cover art, you cannot help but be struck by what complete and exacting work the poet has made. Fragment of the Head of a Queen is an accomplishment. It is art."



Booklist, August, 2001, Donna Seaman, review of World's Tallest Disaster, p. 2078.

Carolina Quarterly, spring, 2003, Amy Weldon, review of World's Tallest Disaster, p. 87.

Library Journal, October 1, 2007, Doris Lynch, review of Fragment of the Head of a Queen, p. 75.

Midwest Book Review, May, 2006, review of Legitimate Dangers: American Poets of the New Century.

Octopus, issue 10, Joshua Butts, review of Fragment of the Head of a Queen.

Publishers Weekly, June 18, 2001, review of World's Tallest Disaster, p. 77; June 25, 2007, review of Fragment of the Head of a Queen, p. 35.

Redivider, spring, 2005, Kathleen Rooney, author interview.


Cate Marvin Home Page, (April 23, 2008), author biography.

City University of New York, College of Staten Island Web site, (April 23, 2008), author profile.

Coldfront, (April 23, 2008), Matthew Yeager, review of Fragment of the Head of a Queen.

Electronic Poetry Review, (April 23, 2008), Aaron Belz, review of World's Tallest Disaster.

Luna, (November 13, 2007), Thomas Cook, review of Fragment of the Head of a Queen., (April 23, 2008), author profile.