Mary Biddinger


Mary Biddinger is a writer, editor, and professor who lives in Akron, Ohio. She is Professor of English at the University of Akron, where she is on the faculty of the NEOMFA creative writing program. Her most recent books are Partial Genius: Prose Poems (Black Lawrence Press, 2019) and Department of Elegy (Black Lawrence Press, 2022). Biddinger’s current project is a flash fiction novella about the adventures of graduate school roommates in late-1990s Chicago. Biddinger has received the mid-career Cleveland Arts Prize in Literature (2019), as well as several Ohio Arts Council Individual Excellence Awards in Creative Writing for her poetry. She was also the recipient of a 2015 National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing Fellowship in poetry. Source

Heaven and Its Teenage Riot

One woman smelled like honey, the other like Funyuns.

I hadn't started carrying a purse yet, kept a check safe


in my sports bra. When house lights turned off I was not

centered. But nobody waits for a shadow to catch up.


One woman took measurements, the other extracted

feathers from a gallon bag. What exactly was I learning


aside from how to lean? My unremarkable thighs

clanged together like volumes of a fresh encyclopedia.


I wondered how many people had touched the clipboard.

Back then people still actively licked their fingers.


I walked everywhere, considered a coat demeaning.

My street had more boards than windows, a stray rooster.


Thinking about the moon brought collective nausea.

It was 1990 and we spent zero time pondering the future.


People always asked if I had a fever. I tested poorly.

When the flood lights powered on it felt like spit falling.


Basically it was a life with very little context beyond

yes or no. They assigned me a leotard thinner than a mask.


The only taboo was braids so loose they resembled grain.

A phone was a thing with square buttons, a wall mount.


The "hangout" a bald fire pit by warehouse tracks.

Getting high meant becoming happy, and I aspired to it.





Literary Movements:


Anthology Years:



Childhood & Coming of Age

Literary Devices:


two lines of verse, usually in the same meter and joined by rhyme, that form a unit


exaggerated statements or claims not meant to be taken literally


a comparison between two unlike things using the words “like” or “as”