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Ponsot was born in Brooklyn, New York, but along with her brother grew up in Jamaica, Queens. She was already writing poems as a child, some of which were published in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. After graduating from St. Joseph's College for Women in Brooklyn, Ponsot earned her master's degree in seventeenth-century literature from Columbia University. After the Second World War, she journeyed to Paris, where she met and married Claude Ponsot, a painter and student of Fernand Léger. The couple lived in Paris for three years, during which time they had a daughter. Later, Ponsot and her husband relocated to the United States. The couple had six sons before divorcing.
Upon returning from France, Ponsot worked as a freelance writer of radio and television scripts. She also translated 69 children's books from the French, including The Fables of La Fontaine.
She co-authored with Rosemary Deen two books about the fundamentals of writing, Beat Not the Poor Desk and Common Sense.
Ponsot taught a poetry thesis class, as well as writing classes, at the Poetry Center of the 92nd Street Y. She has also taught at the YMCA, Beijing United University, New York University, and Columbia University, and she served as an English professor at Queens College in New York, from which she retired in 1991.
Ponsot lives in New York City.
Ponsot is the author of several collections of poetry, including The Bird Catcher (1998), a finalist for the 1999 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize and the winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award, and Springing: New and Selected Poems (2002), which was named a "notable book of the year" by The New York Times Book Review.
Among her awards are a creative writing grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Delmore Schwartz Memorial Prize, The Robert Frost Poetry Award, the Shaughnessy Medal of the Modern Language Association, the 2013 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize from the Poetry Foundation, and the 2015 Aiken Taylor Award for Modern American Poetry.
- True Minds, City Lights Pocket Bookshop, (1957)
- Admit Impediment, Knopf, (1981)
- The Green Dark, Knopf, (1988) ISBN 978-0-394-57054-9
- The Bird Catcher, Knopf, (1998) ISBN 978-0-375-40135-0
- Springing: New and Selected Poems, A.A. Knopf, (2002) ISBN 978-0-375-41389-6
- Easy: Poems. Random House, Inc. 2009. ISBN 978-0-307-27218-8.
- Jean de La Fontaine (2002). Benjamin Ivry, ed. Love & folly: selected fables and tales of LaFontaine. Translator Marie Ponsot. Welcome Rain Publishers. ISBN 978-1-56649-227-0.
- Hans Christian Andersen (1958). The Fairy tale book: a selection of twenty-eight traditional stories from the French, German, Danish, Russian, and Japanese. Translator Marie Ponsot. Simon and Schuster.
- Marie Ponsot, Rosemary Deen (1982). Beat not the poor desk: writing : what to teach, how to teach it, and why. Boynton/Cook Publishers. ISBN 978-0-86709-009-3.
- Rosemary Deen, Marie Ponsot (1985). The Common Sense: What to Write, How to Write It, and Why. Boynton/Cook. ISBN 978-0-86709-079-6.
- Academy of American Poets
- Poetry Foundation
- Random House interview and photograph
- Bomb Magazine interview with Marie Ponsot
- "The Wonder Years" Review of Marie Ponsot's book Easy by Stephen Burt. New York Times. December 16, 2009.
- on YouTube Video clip. November 2, 2009.
- on YouTube Video clip. Breakout: Voices from Inside. A 2009 PEN American Center event.
- Interview with Claude Ponsot in Parisiana magazine.