Titles 1998-2018

Fragment of the Head of a Queen, Cate Marvin


In her highly anticipated second volume, Fragment of the Head of a Queen, Cate Marvin fulfills the promise of her prize-winning first, World's Tallest Disaster. Mythic without the need to lean on a myth, the book operates according to the principle that if there is to be resurrection, it must be preceded by destruction. The speakers in these poems are bound by a need to know what has happened. What they find is by turns beautiful, frightening, and darkly, wildly humorous. Fans of the first volume will find plenty of Marvin's wrought music, unblinking focus, and hard-edged sensuality, but here the poems are wreathed with an entirely different silence. The brokenness and loss of the fragmented queen—seeming to rise up through centuries—is their tutelary spirit. What are we to do when experience hands our idealism back to us in pieces? Her answer: Let the pieces sing.

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Cate Marvin was born in Washington, D.C. She holds MFA degrees from the Universities of Houston and Iowa and a Ph.D. from the University of Cincinnati. Her first collection of poetry, World’s Tallest Disaster (Sarabande Books, 2001) won the 2000 Kathryn A. Morton Prize and the 2002 Kate Tufts Discover Award. It was described by Publishers Weekly as a “taut, defiant, confessional collection” and by Ploughshares as a “spectacular debut.” Along with the poet Michael Dumanis, she co-edited the groundbreaking anthology Legitimate Dangers: American Poets of the New Century (Sarabande Books, 2006). She teaches in the low-residency MFA Program in Creative Writing at Lesley University and is an associate professor in English at the College of Staten Island, City University of New York.


“Cate Marvin’s aptly titled second collection bristles with lyricism and with the intellectual and emotional contradictions that face single women of this time. Always inventive, unafraid of spilling the beans, Marvin can make you laugh at crying and cry at laughing, yet few works so rife with satire ever took the human condition more seriously.  Such poetry comes not only of stylistic choices, but of real lives and real hearts in nervous transition. It is well-made, heartfelt, and cool in its restlessness. Even at its most composed, it flashes with temper, merging the metaphysical and the dramatic, and arriving at unpredictable resolutions that seem not so much aesthetically risky as vitally necessary. Fragment of the Head of a Queen makes it clear why Cate Marvin is becoming one of our essential poets.”

—Rodney Jones