Mary Biddinger

Poetry | University of Akron
Image of Mary Biddinger


Phone | (330) 972-6960
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Recent Publications


Department of Elegy. Black Lawrence Press, January 2022.
Partial Genius: Prose Poems. Black Lawrence Press, August 2019.
Small Enterprise. Black Lawrence Press, August 2015.


Four flash fiction stories in print issue #5 of Always Crashing, including two featured online.

 “Sugar Stack, Skybaby” and “Vanish on Command” (poems) in Couplet Poetry issue 2.

“Everyone Has an Unreasonable Fear that Also Feels like a Gift” (prose poem) in Pithead Chapel, issue 11.2.

Five flash fiction stories in DIAGRAM issue 21.5.

“Antique Filament,” one of two poems published in Bennington Review issue 9.

“That Stuff is Going to Kill You” (flash fiction) in Gone Lawn, Samhain 2021 issue.

About Mary

Mary Biddinger’s newest books are Department of Elegy (2022) and Partial Genius: Prose Poems (2019), both with Black Lawrence Press. Her poems have recently been published in Bennington Review, Crazyhorse, Couplet Poetry, The Laurel Review, and Pithead Chapel. Flash fiction has appeared in Always Crashing, DIAGRAM, Gone Lawn, On the Seawall, and West Trestle Review. Biddinger has been the recipient of several Individual Excellence Awards from the Ohio Arts Council, a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, and the mid-career Cleveland Arts Prize. She teaches literature and creative writing at the University of Akron, and edits the Akron Series in Poetry for the University of Akron Press. Her current project is a flash fiction novella that chronicles the adventures of two graduate school roommates living in Chicago in the late 1990s.

Where did you grow up?

I was born in California and moved around a lot, but mostly grew up in the Midwest, including both the north and south sides of Chicago, and the Detroit suburbs. My family relocated to England at one point, so I’ve been outside the Midwest a bit, too.

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 unleash inspiration.

Your best piece of advice for a young writer?

I remind my students that ultimately their work belongs to them, regardless of what workshop peers or instructors might say. Many enduring works of art failed to delight their audiences at the time they were created.

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

I have a complicated relationship with sound, and working from home during the pandemic made me realize how helpful it can be to wear earplugs or noise-cancelling headphones when trying to write. I get ideas for writing by going for walks or driving around listening to music from my childhood (which in my case is often crappy classic rock).

What is your favorite word or words? Why?

My favorite word is “penultimate.” I tell my undergraduates that if they learn nothing else in my class, they should know what penultimate means and be able to deploy it.

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

When I was a beginning PhD student at University of Illinois Chicago I had the opportunity to see Sharon Olds read (I believe it was for the Poetry Foundation) in a massive auditorium. It was so daunting that I considered turning around and going home, but I am glad I stayed. Since this was long before YouTube, it was the first time I could connect a voice to Olds’s poems.

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

Stay hydrated and eat protein-rich snacks. Do not be afraid to say hello to the table staff for journals or presses that you like. If worried about buying too many books, consider shipping them back via a postal store, rather than cramming them in your carry-on luggage. If you’re an introvert like me, attend some of the virtual sessions—such as the streamed keynote—to give yourself some restorative downtime while still participating in the conference. Rather than relying on restaurants, find a small grocery in the conference area, and purchase some provisions (especially helpful for those of us with food allergies).

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

I have three cats and two dogs, all rescues. In 2020 we bid adieu to my beloved cat Klaus, who had attained a sort of iconic literary following over the years thanks to his presence on social media. My latest poetry book, Department of Elegy, has a dedication “For Klaus” at the beginning. In happier news, we recently adopted a tortoiseshell kitten. Her name is Blanche, and she is having a good time bossing us all around, including our 83 pound pit bull, Penelope. 

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