Poet of the Month: Kate Daniels
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Kate Daniels was bornKatherine Anne Danielsin Richmond, Virginia, on July
2, 1953. Her mother, from Warrington, England, near the Manchester Ship Canal, was a
British war bride who had been married to a U.S. serviceman for two years before she
divorced him and married Daniels' father in 1952. Kate Daniels was raised on the Southside
of Richmond in the working class environment of her father's family. She absorbed her
mother's frustrated ambitions to become a writer, and from the age of five, she created
poems, stories, and songs.
Daniels began working at age fourteenhired as a shampoo girl in a beauty
salonand continued working in various clerical and food service positions throughout
high school and college. Except for one uncle on her mother's side, she was the first
member of her entire family to attend college. At the University of Virginia, she majored
in English. While there, she studied poetry writing with Alan Williamson and Louise Glück
and fiction writing with John Casey. She also took a biography writing course with Emily
Hahn. For a year after graduation in 1975, she worked as a nurse's aid at the University
of Virginia Medical Center. From 1976 to 77, she undertook a master's degree in English
literature at Virginia, which she received in 1977. (Peter Taylor was her advisor.) It was
during this period that she began studying poetry writing with Gregory Orr, who had just
begun teaching at Virginia. Under his guidance, she began to submit poems for publication,
and to have some success in little magazines.
From 1977 to 78, Daniels lived in Los Angeles with Richard Jones (also a poet and a
U.Va. alum), whom she married in 1978. She worked as an information specialist for The
Los Angeles Times and part-time as a library aide at the Beverly Hills Public Library.
In the spring of 1978, she was accepted with a fellowship to the M.F.A. program at
Columbia University. From 1978 to 80, she lived in New York City. As a student at
Columbia, she worked with Carol Muske, Stanley Kunitz, Joseph Brodsky, Daniel Halpern,
Edward Mendelson, Donald Justice, Louise Glück, and Amiri Baraka. She served as poetry
editor of Columbia, a Magazine of Poetry & Prose, and as an editorial assistant
for Antaeus and The Ecco Press. It was also during this time that she and Jones
began publishing Poetry East.
In 1980, the University of Virginia hired Daniels as a part-time lecturer in creative
writing, and she returned to Charlottesville, living there until 1984, teaching and
editing Poetry East. In 1983, Daniels' first book of poems, The White Wave,
won the Agnes Lynch Starrett Award from the University of Pittsburgh Press. It was
published in 1984. That year Daniels also accepted a Bunting Fellowship at Harvard
University. She and Jones separated in 1984 and divorced in 1985. Shortly after she
arrived in Cambridge, her nephew, Andrew Minton, drowned in Norfolk, Virginia. The death
of this five year old boy and its effect on her and on her in-laws (she was related to him
through marriage) became the subject of her second book of poems, The Niobe Poems,
published by the University of Pittsburgh Press in 1988.
During the year in Cambridge, Daniels worked on a biographical project related to the
American poet Muriel Rukeyser. Although she was planning a full-length biography, that
work has not yet been completed. She has edited the selected poems of Rukeyser, published
by Triquarterly Press in 1992, and has written and lectured extensively on Rukeyser and
During the 1985-86 academic year, Daniels lived in Gainesville, Florida, with Geoff
Macdonald, a former professional tennis player who was working on an M.F.A. in fiction
writing at the University of Florida. Their son, Samuel Graham, was born in
Gainesville in January of 1986. From 1986 to 88, Daniels lived in Northampton,
Massachusetts where she was an assistant professor in the M.F.A. program at the University
of Massachusetts, Amherst. She and Macdonald married in September of 1986. In 1988, they
moved to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where Daniels became an associate professor of English
and director of the undergraduate creative writing program (eventually, director of both
graduate and undergraduate creative writing), and Macdonald was head coach of women's
tennis, both at LSU. Their second son, Peter Augustus, was born in December of 1990.
During this period, Daniels, who was raised as a Baptist, began the process of converting
to Catholicism through the church's Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults.
In 1991, Daniels resigned her tenured position at LSU to move with her family to
Durham, North Carolina, where her husband had accepted a head coaching job at Duke
University. From 1992 to 94, Daniels was poet in residence at Wake Forest University in
Winston-Salem. In addition, she served as Duke University Medical Center's poet in
residence. In July of 1993, her daughter Margaret Jane Macdonald was born, one day shy of
Daniels' fortieth birthday.
In December of 1994, Daniels and her family moved once again, this time to Nashville
Tennessee, where Macdonald became head coach of women's tennis at Vanderbilt University
and Daniels began teaching creative writing part-time in the English department and
serving as poet in residence for the Vanderbilt University Medical Center. For two years,
from June 1995 to May 1997, she was a member of the core faculty of the M.F.A. program in
creative writing at Bennington College. In April of 1996, she was received into the
Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil.
Currently, Daniels resides in Nashville. Her third book of poems, Four Testimonies,
will be published by LSU Press in March of 1998, a selection in the Southern Messenger
Series, edited by Dave Smith. She is working on a fourth book, My Poverty. Poems
from Four Testimonies appeared in the fall 1997 issues of Southern Review
and Five Points. In addition, she is working on a series of essays related to
domesticity and spirituality, collectively entitled The Bloom, and is editing an
anthology of essays on contemporary Southern women writers on literary origins and
identity. The rest of the time she passes herself off when necessary (often) as a soccer
mom, cares for her family's redbone coonhound, Maggie May, and is very involved with St.
Ann Catholic Church, of which she is a member and where her children attend school.