Marya Alexandrovna Zaturenska, noted American poet, was born in Kiev, Russia on 12 September 1902. Her family migrated to New York City when she was very young. Though she dropped out of the New York public school system at age fourteen, Marya continued to write poetry while working during the day at bookshops, as a newspaper feature-writer, and as a seamstress. As some of her work was submitted to magazines and published, she made friends in literary circles. One such friend was Willa Cather, who helped Zaturenska obtain a scholarship at Valparaiso University in Indiana in 1922. Even though she had obtained the scholarship, Zaturenska was still expected to work, so she sought other arrangements.
The following year, sponsored by Harriet Monroe, Vachel Lindsay, and Willa Cather, Zaturenska was awarded the Zona Gale scholarship to the University of Wisconsin - Madison. The scholarship was awarded to a writer who has shown "special talent of an unusually high order." She won the John Reed Memorial Prize from Poetry in 1924. In 1925, she graduated from library school of University of Wisconsin - Madison. Within that same year, Zaturenska met and married poet Horace Victor Gregory, whose father, Dr. John Gregory, was the first city surveyor of Milwaukee and a founder of the University of Wisconsin. Horace Gregory was a University of Wisconsin graduate who was working in New York as a published writer. They had a mutual acquaintance, Kenneth Fearing, who introduced them.
Zaturenska published her first book, Threshold and Hearth, in 1934 and was a regular contributor to the Saturday Review of Literature between 1935 and 1941. Her work immediately garnered notice and she received the Shelley Award for poetry in 1935 and the Guarantor's Prize in 1936. Her next volume of work, Cold Morning Sky, was published in 1937 and won Zaturenska the Pulitzer Prize. Zaturenska remained a productive writer, publishing six more collections of her poetry while raising two children, Patrick and Johanna. In 1955, she was a finalist for the 1955 National Book Award. In 1973, she won the Jacob Gladstein Award from Poetry. Her last volume of poetry, The Hidden Waterfall, was published in 1974. She and Gregory received honorary degrees from their alma mater in 1977 and both were given Ingram Merrill Awards in 1979.
Her poetry was musical, often due to its meter rather than rhyme. She explored themes of poverty, spirituality, history, friendship, and childhood. Her use of phrase and imagery is described as lyrical and lovely; beautiful and intelligent.
Zaturenska died January 19, 1982 in Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts, where the Gregorys had moved to be nearer to their son.
Milwaukee Public Library has a small manuscript collection of Zaturenska's poems and correspondence. Read the finding aid online in our Special Collections Finder database. Please contact the Humanities Department at 414-286-3061 to view these materials. Her books are available in CountyCat and more of her poems may be found in Poetry (Volume 43, pages 237-241 has some fine examples).
Historic and biographical details from The Diaries of Marya Zaturenska.
Submitted by Louise at Central