Biography (Critical Survey of Poetry: American Poets)
On January 16, 1955, Mary Karr was born the second daughter of J. P. Karr and Charlie Marie (Moore) Karr in Groves, Texas, in the Port Arthur region. Karr called her hometown Leechfield because of its location amid the oil fields and refineries of East Texas. As she observed in The Liars’ Club, her father worked in one of the refineries and frequented the local American Legion “liars’ club,” while her artist mother thought of herself as a Bohemian Scarlett O’Hara. When she was eleven, Karr wrote in a notebook that her goal in life was to write poetry and autobiography.
Karr traveled to Los Angeles after her high school graduation and plunged into the counterculture. Later that year, she enrolled at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota. She eventually received an M.F.A. from Goddard College in 1979. At Goddard, Karr studied with the novelist and memoirist Tobias Wolff—who influenced her enormously—and the poets Robert Bly and Robert Hass. In 1980, Karr moved to Boston, where she worked various jobs in the computer industry while continuing to write and publish poetry. In 1983, she and poet Michael Milburn married; they later had a son, and they divorced in 1991, an event that spurred her to write her first memoir. Karr has taught at several colleges and universities, including Tufts, Emerson College, Harvard, Sarah Lawrence, and Syracuse University, where she became the Jesse Truesdale Peck Professor of Literature.
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Mary Karr was born in January 1955 in Texas, the daughter of J.P. Karr, an oil refinery worker, and Charlie Marie Karr, an artist and business owner. She had a difficult childhood which she describes in The Liars' Club, and she left home when she was seventeen. Karr enrolled at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota, but left after two years in order to travel. In 1978, she was admitted to Goddard College in Vermont where she met writers Tobias Wolff and Frank Conroy, both of whom encouraged her to write.
Karr found her calling as a poet. She has remarked that she wanted to be a poet from about age seven. Her first volume of poetry, Abacus, was published in 1987; her second volume, The Devil's Tour, appeared in 1993.
After The Devil's Tour, Karr wrote The Liars' Club: A Memoir, which brought her fame along with critical and commercial success. Published in 1995, The Liars' Club spent sixty weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. In 1996, the book won the PEN/Martha Albrand Award and the Texas Institute of Letters' Carr P. Collins Prize. It also won the New York Public Library Award.
Karr's third volume of poetry, Viper Rum: With the afterword ‘‘Against Decoration,’’ was published in 1998. This was followed in 2000 by The Liars' Club sequel, Cherry: A Memoir, in which Karr recalls her turbulent adolescence. Cherry was generally less well-received...
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