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Paul Mariani

Paul Mariani is a poet and the biographer of five singular poets, including the 20th-century Americans William Carlos Williams, John Berryman, Robert Lowell, and Hart Crane, and—most recently—the 19th-century prosodic innovator and Jesuit priest Gerard Manley Hopkins. A former poetry editor of the national Catholic weekly America, Mariani’s work evinces a fascination with the “poetic/spiritual journey” undertaken by poets, whether explicitly Catholic, as with Hopkins, Lowell, and Berryman, or ostensibly secular, as with Williams and Crane. He is currently at work on a biography of Wallace Stevens, whose late poem “Final Soliloquy Of The Interior Paramour” includes the line “We say God and the imagination are one…”

“If you ask me about God and poetry, I really can’t separate them,” Mariani has said of his own motivations as a poet. “That doesn’t mean that all my poems are God-filled; in fact some of them deeply question the reality of it all. But the poems that most deeply satisfy are those in which I confront the mystery.”

Mariani is also the author of four critical studies, including God & the Imagination: Poetry, Poets, and the Ineffable, as well as a spiritual memoir, Thirty Days: On Retreat with the Exercises of St. Ignatius. His biography of Hart Crane, The Broken Tower, was recently made into a film of the same name, directed by and starring James Franco. An autobiography in verse, Epitaphs for the Journey: New, Selected & Revised Poems, will be published by Cascade in the summer of 2012.

Mariani’s honors include fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the National Endowment for the Arts; and the John Ciardi Award for Lifetime Achievement in Poetry. All of his biographies have been listed as Notable Books by the New York Times. Since 2000, he has held a Chair in English at Boston College.

Online Resources

Gilbert Sorentino on Mariani’s W.C. Williams biography
Excerpt from ‘The Broken Tower: A Life of Hart Crane’
Mariani reviews the Bishop-Lowell correspondence
Joseph Feeney’s review of ‘God and the Imagination’

Selected Bibliography

Gerard Manley Hopkins: A Life (2008)
God and the Imagination (2002)
The Broken Tower: A Life of Hart Crane (1999)
Lost Puritan: A Life of Robert Lowell (1994)
Dream Song: The Life of John Berryman (1990)
William Carlos Williams: A New World Naked (1981)