Marilyn Nelson

Award-winning Poet and Author
National Book Award Finalist
Recipient of the Frost Medal

Readings &
Lecture Topics
  • The Freedom Business
  • Carver: A Life in Poems
  • African American History in Verse
  • An Evening about Emily Dickinson
  • Sing, Heavenly Muse: A Poetry Workshop
  • An Evening with Marilyn Nelson

Biography

Nelson’s writing is rich in story, philosophy/theology, cend language. She moves comfortably from low to high diction and back again….Reading her work is as much a lesson in history and in human nature as it is a lesson in poetry.” —Joyce S. Brown

Nelson’s bold and sure poems long for heaven and-happily for us-continue a lifelong affair with the occasions of earth.” —Mark Doty

Her words teach us how to praise ourselves by praising each other.” —Yusef Komunyakaa

Marilyn Nelson, a three-time finalist for the National Book Award, is one of America’s most celebrated poets. She is the author or translator of seventeen poetry books for adults and children, five chapbooks, and in 2014 she published a memoir, named one of NPR’s Best Books of 2014, entitled How I Discovered Poetrya series of 50 poems about growing up in the 1950’s in a military family, each poem stamped with a place and date from the many places they lived.

Image Journal writes, “American history as conceived by Marilyn Nelson is the inside-out, last-shall-be-first version. She inhabits the voices of the overlooked and disenfranchised and shines light into forgotten corners that reveal essential truths about the whole….But if she is a revisionist historian’s poet, she is also a child’s poet, a mother’s poet, a housekeeper’s poet, and scientist’s poet….It’s this breadth of perspective, from pole to pole, past to present, from spheres domestic to atmospheric, that make her so remarkable. Nelson is also an openhanded citizen of the nation of writers.”

Of her many collections, The Homeplace won the 1992 Annisfield-Wolf Award and was a finalist for the 1991 National Book Award. The Fields Of Praise: New And Selected Poems won the 1998 Poets’ Prize and was a finalist for the 1997 National Book Award, the PEN Winship Award, and the Lenore Marshall Prize. The poems in this collection embrace numerous themes, including the changing nature of love, racism, motherhood, marriage, and domesticity. Carver: A Life In Poems won the 2001 Boston Globe/Hornbook Award and the Flora Stieglitz Straus Award, was a finalist for the 2001 National Book Award, a Newbery Honor Book, and a Coretta Scott King Honor Book. Fortune’s Bones was a Coretta Scott King Honor Book and won the Lion and the Unicorn Award for Excellence in North American Poetry. Her young adult book, A Wreath For Emmett Till, won the 2005 Boston Globe Horn Book Award and was a 2006 Coretta Scott King Honor Book, a 2006 Michael L. Printz Honor Book, and a 2006 Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award Honor Book. The Cachoiera Tales And Other Poems won the L.E. Phillabaum Award and was a finalist for the LA Times Book Award. In 2016, her poetry collection My Seneca Village won the LA Times Book Award in Young Adult Literature.

She has also published books for children and young adults including: American Ace, a historical novel that uncovers a richer understanding of race, identity, and each other (Penguin Random House, 2016); Snook Alone, a picture-book illustrated by Timothy Basil Ering (Candlewick Press, 2010); Sweethearts of Rhythm: The Story of the Greatest All-Girl Swing Band in the World, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney (Dial Books, 2009); The Freedom Business: Including A Narrative of the Life and Adventures of Venture, a Native of Africa (Front Street, 2008); The Cat Walked through the Casserole and Other Poems for Children (with Pamela Espeland, 1984); and Halfdan Rasmussen’s Hundreds of Hens and Other Poems for Children (1982), which she translated from Danish with Pamela Espeland. In 2012, Faster Than Light: New and Selected Poems and Ostrich and Lark, a picture-book illustrated by San (Bushman) artists, were published.

Her honors include two NEA creative writing fellowships, the 2019 Poetry Foundation’s Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, the 1990 Connecticut Arts Award, an A.C.L.S. Contemplative Practices Fellowship, the Department of the Army’s Commander’s Award for Public Service, a Fulbright Teaching Fellowship, a fellowship from the J.S. Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, and the Frost Medal-the Poetry Society of America’s most prestigious award, for a “distinguished lifetime achievement in poetry.” Nelson is a professor emerita of English at the University of Connecticut; was (2004-2010) founder/director and host of Soul Mountain Retreat, a small non-profit writers’ colony; and held the office of Poet Laureate of the State of Connecticut from 2001-2006.

Short Bio

Marilyn Nelson is the author or translator of seventeen poetry books and the memoir How I Discovered Poetry. She is also the author of The Fields Of Praise: New And Selected Poems, which won the 1998 Poets’ Prize, Carver: A Life In Poems, which won the 2001 Boston Globe/Hornbook Award and the Flora Stieglitz Straus Award, and Fortune’s Bones, which was a Coretta Scott King Honor Book and won the Lion and the Unicorn Award for Excellence in North American Poetry. Nelson’s honors include two NEA creative writing fellowships, the 1990 Connecticut Arts Award, a Fulbright Teaching Fellowship, a fellowship from the J.S. Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, and the Frost Medal. She was the Poet Laureate of the State of Connecticut from 2001-2006.

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