Marie Ponsot Biography


(Poets and Poetry in America)

Marie Ponsot was born Marie Birmingham in Queens, New York. Her father, William Birmingham, was a partner in a wine importing company. Her mother, Marie (Candee) Birmingham, was a schoolteacher. Marie began publishing her writing as a child, in The Brooklyn Eagle. She received a bachelor of arts degree from St. Joseph’s College for Women in Brooklyn, then earned a master’s degree with a concentration in seventeenth century literature from Columbia University. She has often spoken of how her parents stimulated her love of literature.

After World War II, Marie Birmingham went to Paris for postgraduate studies, where she met artist and painter Claude Ponsot. They were married in 1948. Together they had seven children, one daughter and six sons. They divorced in 1970. Marie Ponsot met Beat poet and publisher Lawrence Ferlinghetti while they were fellow passengers on a boat. He published her first collection, True Minds, through City Lights Books in San Francisco in 1956.

Ponsot has had an extensive teaching career. When her second collection was published, she was an English professor at Queens College, from which she retired in 1991. She has also taught in graduate programs at Beijing United University, New York’s YMHA Poetry Center, New York University, the New School, and Columbia University.


(Poetry for Students)

Marie Ponsot Published by Gale Cengage

Marie Ponsot was born in Queens, a borough of New York City, in 1921. She has said that she never thought she would be a teacher because there were so many of them already in her family. She also never thought she would be a mother. But Ponsot has spent most of her life teaching, and she is the mother of seven children. One thing that has been consistent in her life, however, is her love of poetry. When she was a child, her mother would scoot her outside to play with the other children. Ponsot has confessed that although she obeyed her mother, her real desire was to return, as soon as possible, to the many books of poetry that lay about the family home. Her love of poetry was encouraged by her grandmother, who kept scrapbooks filled with poems and often recited them for every special occasion, including the setting of the sun each day.

Ponsot published her first book of poems, True Minds, in 1956. She was already the mother of five. Thirteen years later, her husband, the French painter Claude Ponsot, abandoned the poet and her children. Although Ponsot continued to write poetry, her main focus during that time was on raising her children, which also meant providing the money to buy their food. She worked as a translator for many years, having learned to speak and read French from her years of living in that country as a newlywed. Then, despite the fact that she thought she would never want to teach, Ponsot landed a job teaching composition at...

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