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Marilyn Hacker

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Marilyn Hacker (born November 27, 1942) is an American poet, translator and critic. She is Professor of English emerita at the City College of New York.

Her books of poetry include Presentation Piece (1974), which won the National Book Award,[1] Love, Death, and the Changing of the Seasons (1986), and Going Back to the River (1990). In 2003, Hacker won the Willis Barnstone Translation Prize. In 2009, she subsequently won the PEN Award for Poetry in Translation for King of a Hundred Horsemen by Marie Étienne,[2] which also garnered the first Robert Fagles Translation Prize from the National Poetry Series. In 2010, she received the PEN/Voelcker Award for Poetry.[3] She was shortlisted for the 2013 PEN Award for Poetry in Translation[4] for her translation of Tales of a Severed Head by Rachida Madani.

Early life and education[edit]

Hacker was born and raised in Bronx, New York, the only child of Jewish immigrant parents. Her father was a management consultant and her mother a teacher.[5] Hacker attended the Bronx High School of Science, where she met her future husband Samuel R. Delany, who would become a well-known science-fiction writer. She enrolled at New York University at the age of fifteen (B.A., 1964). Three years later, Hacker and Delany traveled from New York to Detroit, Michigan and were married. In The Motion of Light in Water, Delany said they married in Detroit because of age-of-consent laws and because he was African-American and she was Caucasian: "there were only two states in the union where we could legally wed. The closest one was Michigan."[6] They settled in New York's East Village. Their daughter, Iva Hacker-Delany, was born in 1974. Hacker and Delany, after being separated for many years, were divorced in 1980, but remain friends. Hacker identifies as lesbian,[7] and Delany has identified as a gay man since adolescence.[8]

In the '60s and '70s, Hacker worked mostly in commercial editing.[9] She graduated with a bachelor of arts degree in Romance Languages in 1964.[10]


Hacker's first publication was in Cornell University's Epoch.[11] After moving to London in 1970, she found an audience through the pages of The London Magazine and Ambit.[9] She and her husband edited the magazine Quark: A Quarterly of Speculative Fiction (4 issues; 1970–71). Early recognition came for her when Richard Howard, then editor of the New American Review, accepted three of Hacker's poems for publication.[9]

In 1974, when she was thirty-one, Presentation Piece was published by The Viking Press. The book was a Lamont Poetry Selection of the Academy of American Poets and won the annual National Book Award for Poetry.[1] Winter Numbers, which details the loss of many of her friends to AIDS and her own struggle with breast cancer, garnered a Lambda Literary Award and The Nation's Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize.[11] Her Selected Poems 1965-1990 received the 1996 Poets' Prize, and Squares and Courtyards won the 2001 Audre Lorde Award.[5] She received an Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 2004.[9]

Hacker often employs strict poetic forms in her poetry: for example, in Love, Death, and the Changing of the Seasons, which is a verse novel in sonnets. She is also recognized as a master of "French forms" such as the rondeau and villanelle.[12]

In 1990 she became the first full-time editor of the Kenyon Review, a position she held until 1994. She was noted for "broaden[ing] the quarterly's scope to include more minority and marginalized viewpoints."[13] In a 2005 essay discussing the theme of food and drink in Hacker's poetry, scholar Mary Biggs describes her work as frequently referring to three "interlinked, paradoxical themes: (1) love and sex; (2) travel, exile, diaspora-counterpoised with family, community, home; and (3) the eternal and, for her, eternally positive association of women with nurturance and with homemaking in the broadest sense."[14]

Hacker served as a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets from 2008 to 2014.[10]

Hacker lives in New York and Paris and has retired from teaching at the City College of New York and the CUNY Graduate Center.[5]

Though not a character, a poem of Hacker's is reprinted in Heavenly Breakfast, Delany's memoir of a Greenwich Village commune in 1967; in Delany's autobiography, The Motion of Light in Water;[6] and her prose and incidents about her appear in his journals, The Journals of Samuel R. Delany: In Search of Silence, Volume 1, 1957–1969, edited by Kenneth R. James (Wesleyan University Press, 2017).

Hacker was a judge for the 2012 Hippocrates Prize for Poetry and Medicine. In 2013, she was inducted into the New York Writers Hall of Fame. In 2014, she published a collaboration with a Palestinian-American poet, Deema Shehabi, written in the style of a Japanese renga, a form of alternating call and answer. The book, Diaspo/renga: a collaboration in alternating renga explores the emotional journey of living in exile.[15]

In a review of the 2015 collection A Stranger's Mirror, Carol Muske-Dukes comments that Hacker has not received her "due as one of the most extraordinary innovative poets writing today."[16] In a laudatory review of Hacker's 2019 collection Blazons, A. M. Juster states that "there is no poet writing in English with a better claim for the Nobel Prize in Literature than Marilyn Hacker."[17]



  • Presentation Piece (1974) ISBN 0-670-57399-X —winner of the National Book Award[1]
  • Separations (1976) ISBN 0-394-40070-4
  • Taking Notice (1980) ISBN 0-394-51223-5
  • Assumptions 1985 ISBN 0-394-72826-2
  • Love, Death, and the Changing of the Seasons (1986) ISBN 978-0-393-31225-6
  • Going Back to the River (1990) ISBN 0-394-58271-3
  • The Hang-Glider's Daughter: New and Selected Poems (1991) ISBN 0-906500-36-2
  • Selected Poems: 1965 - 1990 (1994) ISBN 978-0-393-31349-9
  • Winter Numbers: Poems (1995) ISBN 978-0-393-31373-4
  • Squares and Courtyards (2000) ISBN 978-0-393-32095-4
  • Desesperanto: Poems 1999-2002 (2003) ISBN 978-0-393-32630-7
  • First Cities: Collected Early Poems 1960-1979 (2003) ISBN 978-0-393-32432-7
  • Essays on Departure: New and Selected Poems (2006) ISBN 1-903039-78-9
  • Names: Poems (2009) ISBN 978-0-393-33967-3
  • A Stranger's Mirror: New and Selected Poems 1994 - 2014 (2015) ISBN 978-0-393-24464-9
  • Blazons: New and Selected Poems, 2000 - 2018 (2019), Carcanet Press, ISBN 978-1-784-10715-4
  • Calligraphies: Poems (2023), W. W. Norton & Company, ISBN 9781324036463



Literary criticism[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "National Book Awards – 1975" Archived 2011-09-09 at the Wayback Machine. National Book Foundation. Retrieved 2012-04-07.
    (With acceptance speech by Hacker and essay by Megan Snyder-Camp from the Awards 60-year anniversary blog.)
  2. ^ Marilyn Hacker: King of a Hundred Horsemen Archived 2009-06-29 at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ PEN Winners Announced Archived 2010-09-26 at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ "PEN Award for Poetry in Translation ($3,000)". PEN America. Archived from the original on 2013-08-06. Retrieved 2013-08-15.
  5. ^ a b c "Hacker, Marilyn 1942-". Encyclopedia.com. Gale. 2009.
  6. ^ a b Delany, Samuel R. (2004). The Motion of Light in Water. University of Minnesota Press. p. 22. ISBN 0-9659037-5-3.
  7. ^ Finch, Annie; Hacker, Marilyn (1996). "Marilyn Hacker: An Interview on Form by Annie Finch". The American Poetry Review. 25 (3): 23–27. JSTOR 27782108.
  8. ^ Delany, Samuel R. "Coming/Out". In Shorter Views (Wesleyan University Press, 1999).
  9. ^ a b c d "Marilyn Hacker". Poetry Archive.
  10. ^ a b "Marilyn Hacker". Academy of American Poets.
  11. ^ a b Campo, Rafael. "About Marilyn Hacker: A Profile". Ploughshares.
  12. ^ Finch, Annie; Varnes, Kathrine (2002). An Exaltation of Forms: Contemporary Poets Celebrate the Diversity of Their Art. University of Michigan Press. pp. 288–289. ISBN 9780472067251.
  13. ^ "A Brief History of the Kenyon Review". The Kenyon Review. Retrieved 2013-08-15.
  14. ^ Biggs, Mary. “Bread and Brandy: Food and Drink in the Poetry of Marilyn Hacker.” Tulsa Studies in Women’s Literature, vol. 24, no. 1, 2005, pp. 129–50, doi:10.2307/20455214.
  15. ^ "Diaspo/Renga". Holland Park Press. London. Retrieved 19 April 2015.
  16. ^ Muske-Dukes, Carol (2015-03-06). "How Tom Sleigh, Marilyn Hacker, Deborah Landau, Cecilia Woloch bear witness". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2024-01-16.
  17. ^ Juster, A. M. (1 August 2019). "Marilyn Hacker: Rebel Traditionalist". Los Angeles Review of Books. Retrieved 8 August 2019.

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