Mary Biddinger

Poetry | University of Akron
Image of Mary Biddinger


Phone | (330) 972-6960
Email |
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Recent Publications


Partial Genius: Prose Poems. Black Lawrence Press, Forthcoming 2019.
The Czar: Poems. Black Lawrence Press, August 2016.
Small Enterprise. Black Lawrence Press, August 2015.
A Sunny Place with Adequate Water. Black Lawrence Press, June 2014.
O Holy Insurgency. Black Lawrence Press,  January 2013.


About Mary

Mary Biddinger is the author of the poetry collections Prairie Fever (Steel Toe Books, 2007), Saint Monica (Black Lawrence Press, 2011), O Holy Insurgency (Black Lawrence Press, 2013), A Sunny Place with Adequate Water (Black Lawrence Press, 2014), and Small Enterprise (Black Lawrence Press, 2015). She is also co-editor of The Monkey and the Wrench: Essays into Contemporary Poetics (U Akron Press, 2011). Her poems have recently appeared or are forthcoming in Barrelhouse, Bat City Review, Crazyhorse, Crab Orchard Review, Forklift, Ohio, Guernica, Gulf Coast, Pleiades, Quarterly West, Redivider, and Sou’wester, among others. She teaches literature and poetry writing at The University of Akron, where she edits Barn Owl Review, the Akron Series in Poetry, and the Akron Series in Contemporary Poetics.

Where did you grow up?

I was born in California but grew up in a number of
Midwestern locales, including Chicago and the Detroit suburbs.

What is one of your favorite places in Akron?

I love the Summit County Metro Parks in the Akron area and recommend them to anyone who will listen. They are a wonderful resource for all, but especially valuable from a writer’s perspective, since getting under some trees can help unleash inspiration.

Your best piece of advice for a young writer?

I always remind my students that ultimately their work belongs to them, regardless of what workshop peers or instructors might say. If you feel very strongly about an image or title or turn of phrase that others don’t feel the same about, keep it. Many enduring works of art broke rules and failed to delight their audiences at the time.

Do you have any eccentric habits/strategies to get you started writing? What are they?

For some reason I need to turn a bunch of lights on (like, an overhead light with three bulbs and a desk lamp, too) in order to focus on creative writing. I also need to wear earplugs, because I have noisy kids and pets. I guess this puts me in a very bright and quiet zone. For whatever reason, it works, so I am not going to tinker with it.

What is your favorite word or words? Why?

My favorite word is “penultimate,” because the penultimate stanza in a poem is often the finest.

What was the best reading you’ve ever been to? Why?

I saw Sharon Olds read in Chicago in the late 1990s, and had never heard her voice before (the internet didn’t include author reading clips back then). Suddenly I had a voice to connect to the poems that I had loved for so long. It was truly memorable event.

What is your AWP advice to a first-time attendee?

Don’t forget to stay hydrated and eat some protein-rich snacks. Do not be afraid to say hello to the table staff for journals or presses that you like. If you are feeling overwhelmed, stop by the University of Akron Press table because we are nice and love to chat (and we have buttons and beautiful books). If worried about buying too many books, consider shipping them back via a postal store, rather than cramming them in your baggage.

Do you have any pets? Tell us a story about one.

I have four cats and two dogs, all rescues. At AWP, frequently friends and acquaintances stop by the University of Akron Press table to lament the fact that my creamsicle tabby cat, Klaus, is not attending the conference with me. He has gained quite the literary following, thanks to his photos on Instagram and Facebook. To this, he is very much indifferent.

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