Marilyn Nelson was born in Ohio. She earned her BA from the University of California, Davis, an MA from the University of Pennsylvania and a PhD from the University of Minnesota.
Her books include My Seneca Village (2015), winner of the LA Times Book Award in Young Adult Literature; How I Discovered Poetry (2014), one of NPR’s Best Books of 2014; The Cachoiera Tales And Other Poems (2005), winner of the L.E. Phillabaum Award; Fortune’s Bones (2004), a Coretta Scott King Honor Book and winner of the Lion and the Unicorn Award for Excellence in North American Poetry; The Fields of Praise: New and Selected Poems (1997), which won the 1998 Poets’ Prize and was a finalist for the 1998 Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize, the 1997 National Book Award, and the PEN Winship Award; and The Homeplace (1990), which won the 1992 Annisfield-Wolf Award and was a finalist for the 1991 National Book Award.
Her collections of verse for children and young adults includes American Ace (2016); A Wreath for Emmett Till (2005), which won the 2005 Boston Globe Horn Book Award and was a 2006 Coretta Scott King Honor Book, a 2006 Michael L. Printz Honor Book, and a 2006 Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award Honor Book; Carver: A Life in Poems (2001), which won the 2001 Boston Globe/Hornbook Award and the Flora Stieglitz Straus Award and was a finalist for the 2001 National Book Award, a Newbery Honor Book, and a Coretta Scott King Honor Book.
Her honors include the 1990 Connecticut Arts Award, a Frost Medal from the Poetry Society of America, a Fulbright Teaching Fellowship, two Pushcart Prizes, and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts, an A.C.L.S. Contemplative Practices Fellowship and the Department of the Army’s Commander’s Award for Public Service. She served as Poet Laureate of Connecticut (2001—2006).
Since 1978, she has taught at the University of Connecticut, Storrs.