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Spivack was born in New York, NY, and was raised in North Bennington, VT. The eldest daughter of Peter Drucker, at an early age she developed a love for writing and literature. She graduated from Oberlin College in 1959 and won a fellowship to study at Boston University with Robert Lowell.
Her writing has been published in numerous magazines and anthologies, some of her work has been translated into French. Publications include The New Yorker, Ploughshares, The Atlantic Monthly, Poetry, Massachusetts Review, Virginia Quarterly, The Southern Review, Harvard Review, The Paris Review, The Kenyon Review, Agni, New Letters, and many others
She has held posts at the University of Paris VII-VIII, the University of Francoise Rabelais, Tours, the University of Versailles, and at the Ecole Superieure (Polytechnique). She was a Fulbright Senior Artist/Professor in Creative Writing in France (1993–95).
- 2010 Sows Ear International Poetry Prize, for A History of Yearning
- 2010 London Book Festival Poetry Prize, for A History of Yearning
- Unspeakable Things, New York: A. Knopf, 2016, ISBN 9780385353960
- With Robert Lowell and His Circle, University Press of New England, 2012, ISBN 978-1555537883
- A History of Yearning, The Sow's Ear Poetry Review, 2010, ISBN 978-0615394060
- Moments of Past Happiness, Earthwinds Editions, 2007, ISBN 978-0976776017
- The Beds We Lie In, Scarecrow Press, 1986, ISBN 978-0810818408
- The Honeymoon, Graywolf Short Fiction Series, 1986, ISBN 978-0915308859
Reception of books
Spivack's books have received mixed reviews. With Unspeakable Things Kirkus Reviews wrote "Well written but ill-conceived." and Publishers Weekly describes it as an "overly ambitious, occasionally lyrical novel." However, Paste called it "at once jarring, magical and undoubtedly essential." It was also reviewed by The Washington Times, Star Tribune, and Boston Globe.
- "Unspeakable Things". www.kirkusreviews.com. Kirkus Media LLC. September 3, 2015. Retrieved May 1, 2016.
- "Unspeakable Things". www.publishersweekly.com. PWxyz LLC. Retrieved May 1, 2016.
- "Unspeakable Things by Kathleen Spivack Review". Paste. Paste Media Group. January 28, 2016. Retrieved May 1, 2016.
- Hopley, Claire (January 28, 2016). "Analysis/Opinion Unspeakable Things". Washington Times. Retrieved May 1, 2016.
- Forbes, Malcolm (February 24, 2016). "Review: 'Unspeakable Things,' by Kathleen Spivack". Star Tribune. Retrieved May 1, 2016.
- Campbell, Karen (February 4, 2016). "Fleeing Nazi brutality in a twisted fever dream". Boston Globe. Retrieved May 1, 2016.