Mary Biddinger

Poetry | University of Akron
Image of Mary Biddinger


Phone | (330) 972-6960
Email |
Web |

Recent Publications


Partial Genius: Prose Poems. Black Lawrence Press, August 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.


Open Letter on Absent Friends.” Verse Daily (originally published in Southern Indiana Review), October 2020. 
More Harm than Good” and “Late August Edition.On the Seawall, September, 2020. 
Your Damage,” “A Gentle Reminder,” and “I Found Your Diary and It Was Blank.” The Adroit Journal, Issue 34, 2020
Fantasy Sports,” Returning to Dirt,” Instant Courage,” and History Town.” Waxwing, Issue XV, 2019.
Book of Disclosures.” Poetry, 2019.
The Slimness of Our Chances” and “Untamed Thickets.” Court Green, 2019.

About Mary

Mary Biddinger is the author of six books of poetry, including Small Enterprise and Partial Genius: Prose Poems, both with Black Lawrence Press. She teaches literature and creative writing at the University of Akron, and edits the Akron Series in Poetry for the University of Akron Press. Poems and flash fiction have recently appeared in The Adroit JournalCourt Green, The Laurel ReviewOn the Seawall, Poetry, Southern Indiana Review, and Waxwing, among others. Biddinger has been the recipient of three Individual Excellence Awards from the Ohio Arts Council, a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, and the 2019 mid-career Cleveland Arts Prize in literature. Her seventh collection of poems, Department of Elegy, will be published by Black Lawrence Press in early 2022. 

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.

NEOMFA's Ohio icon

© 2021 NEOMFA
English Department
Cleveland State University
2121 Euclid Ave., RT 1815
Cleveland, Ohio  44115