Mary Jo Bang

Mary Jo Bang. Courtesy StopSmiling.

Mary Jo Bang (born 1946) is an American poet.


Born in Waynesville, Missouri, Bang grew up in Ferguson, Missouri.

She graduated from Northwestern University with a B.A. and M.A. in sociology, from the Polytechnic of Central London with a B.A. in photography, and from Columbia University, with an M.F.A. in creative writing.[1]

Her work has appeared in New American Writing, The Paris Review, The New Yorker, The New Republic, Denver Quarterly, Harvard Review.

Bang was the poetry co-editor of the Boston Review from 1995 to 2005. She was a judge for the 2004 James Laughlin Award.

She lives in St. Louis, Missouri, and teaches at Washington University in St. Louis.


Wayne Koestenbaum writes: "Mary Jo Bang's remarkable elegies recall the late work of Ingeborg Bachmann — a febrile, recursive lyricism. Like Nietzsche or Plath, Bang flouts naysayers; luridly alive, she drives deep into aporia, her new, sad country. Her stanzas, sometimes spilling, sometimes severe, perform an uncanny death-song, recklessly extended—nearly to the breaking point.[2]

David Orr writes: "Mary Jo Bang largely succeeds in her new book of elegies for her son, called, simply enough, Elegy. Bang’s previous four collections are polished and frequently interesting, but they also contain more than their share of overwrought and overthought poetry about poetry....That can’t be said of “Elegy.” This is a tightly focused, completely forthright collection written almost entirely in the bleakest key imaginable. The poems aren’t all great, some of them aren’t even good, but collectively they are overwhelming — which is both a compliment to Bang’s talent and to the toughness of mind that allowed her to attempt this difficult project in the first place.[3]


  • Publishers Weekly; “2007 Best Books of the Year” St. Louis Post-Dispatch; “Most Recommended” National Book
  • Critics Circle, December 2007
  • National Book Critics Circle Award, 2007
  • Washington University Faculty Research Grant, Summer 2007
  • Bellagio Foundation Fellowship 2007
  • Finalist, Anna Akhmatova Award 2006
  • Poetry Society of American’s Alice Fay di Castagnola Award 2005 (Fannie Howe, Judge) & 2002 (Brenda Hillman, Judge)
  • Bogliosco Foundation Fellowship 2005
  • Guggenheim Fellowship 2004
  • Pushcart Prize 2003
  • Louise in Love listed in: “Notable Books in 2001” National Book Critics Circle; “Best Books of 2001” St. Louis Post-Dispatch
  • University of Georgia’s Contemporary Poets Series Competition 2000 (Mark Strand, Judge)
  • Hodder Fellowship, Princeton University 1999-2000
  • Chateau Lavigny Fellowship 1999
  • Great Lakes Colleges Association New Writer's Award 1998
  • Yaddo Fellowship 1998
  • Apology for Want listed in “Notable Books in 1997” by the National Book Critics Circle
  • Bread Loaf Writers' Conference Fellowship, 1997
  • Katharine Bakeless Nason Publication Prize 1996 (Edward Hirsh, Judge)
  • MacDowell Colony Fellowship, 1996
  • "Discovery" The Nation Poetry Award 1995
  • Honorable Mention, The Academy of American Poets Poetry Competition, 1995 (Robert Pinsky, Judge)
  • Columbia University School of the Arts Dean's Award, 1994



  • Apology for Want. Hanover, NH: University Press of New England, 1997.
  • Louise in Love. New York: Grove Press, 2001.
  • The Downstream Extremity of the Isle of Swans. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 2001.
  • Her Head in a Rabbit Hole: Poems (chapbook). Montreal: Delirium Press, 2006.
  • Elegy: Poems. St. Paul, MN: Graywolf Press, 2007.
  • The Bride of E: Poems. St. Paul, MN: Graywolf Press, 2009.
  • Let's Say Yes (chapbook). South Bend, IN / Brooklyn, NY: Hand Held Editions, 2011.


  • Lament: Three poets contribute to a project on memory and loss (with Catherine Barnett, Noelle Kocot, & Zachary Charles Sifuentes). Cambridge, MA: Bow & Arrow Press, 2009.


  • Dante, Inferno (illustrated by Henrik Drescher). Minneapolis, MN: Graywolf Press, 2012.


  • Whatever You Desire: A Book of lesbian poetry. London: Oscars, 1990.

Except where noted, bibliographical information courtesy WorldCat..[4]

See alsoEdit

Mary Jo Bang reads Mystery at Manor Close at AWP Conference for the American Hybrid reading

Mary Jo Bang reads Mystery at Manor Close at AWP Conference for the American Hybrid reading


  1. Mary Jo Bang b. 1946, Poetry Foundation, Web, Aug. 4, 2012.
  2. Mary Jo Bang,, Academy of American Poets. Web, Aug. 24, 2015.
  3. DAVID ORR (March 30, 2008). "In Memoriam". The New York Times. 
  4. Search results = au:Mary Jo Bang, WorldCat, OCLC Online Computer Library Center Inc. Web, Aug. 24, 2015.

External linksEdit

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