Kate Daniels

Kate Daniels (1953– )

Kate Daniels is a Richmond-born poet and graduate of the University of Virginia who has been awarded the Pushcart Prize, the Crazyhorse Prize for Poetry, and the Louisiana Literature Poetry Prize, as well as the James Dickey Prize. In addition to editing Out of Silence: Muriel Rukeyser's Selected Poems (1992) and coediting a volume of critical essays on Robert Bly titled Of Solitude and Silence (1982), she has published three volumes of original poetry: The White Wave (1984), The Niobe Poems (1988), and Four Testimonies (1998). MORE...


Born in a working-class section of Southside Richmond in 1953, Daniels is the daughter of a British war bride, Jean Graham, who divorced her American-serviceman husband after two years before marrying Daniels's father, Harry E. Daniels, in 1952. The first member of her family to attend college, Daniels earned a bachelor's degree and a master's degree from the University of Virginia (1975, 1977) and a master of fine arts degree from Columbia University (1980). She served as a fellow at Harvard University's Bunting Institute and has taught creative writing at Wake Forest University and Bennington College. Daniels has been married twice and has three children from her second marriage, to Geoff Macdonald. She converted to Catholicism, and religious matters often enter her work.

An associate professor of English and an associate dean of arts and science at Vanderbilt University, Daniels explores in her poetry women's place in contemporary American and southern culture, especially through her own perspectives as both a poet and a mother. A formally exacting poet, she works in a range of meters, but is careful not to fall into form for form's sake. Her poems are remarkably concentrated with narrative details, making relatively short pieces read like full-bodied stories. Her style is often prose-like, even conversational, though it never loses sight of the driving energy of the underlying rhythms, the way "common" southern speech breaks across the lineation. Daniels's poetry has been characterized equally by aesthetic as well as ethical concerns throughout her career. Although her work never devolves into the propagandistic, she is unmistakably a political poet, using her verse to explore cultural tensions massed around gender and class inequalities.

Her first book of poems, The White Wave (1984), which was honored with the Agnes Lynch Starrett Award, established Daniels as an emerging writer. The subject of her second volume, The Niobe Poems (1988), is the drowning of Daniels's five-year-old nephew. She adapts the Greek myth of the tragic mother Niobe as a figure for the anguishing complexities of love and death. Four Testimonies (1998) draws from a remarkably rich range of subject matter, from the intricacies of modern spirituality to the horrors of natural disaster to the enduring pains and pleasures of motherhood. Daniels's fourth collection of poems, entitled My Poverty, will return to the Richmond cityscape of her youth. This collection is distinct in the general history of southern poetry in its devotion to recovering the urban, working-class South, presenting a vision of the literal and cultural poverty of working-class Richmond. Daniels is also working on a series of poems that investigate convergences of psychoanalysis and poetry.

Major Works

  • Of Solitude and Silence: Writings on Robert Bly, Editor with Richard Jones (1982)
  • The White Wave (1984)
  • Muriel Rukeyser: A Life of Poetry (1988)
  • The Niobe Poems (1988)
  • (Editor) Muriel Rukeyser, Out of Silence, Editor (1992)
  • Four Testimonies (1998)

Time Line

  • July 2, 1953 - Poet Kate Daniels is born in a working-class neighborhood on the southside of Richmond.
  • 1975 - Kate Daniels earns a BA degree at the University of Virginia.
  • 1977 - Kate Daniels earns an MA in English literature at the University of Virginia.
  • 1980 - Kate Daniels receives an MFA from Columbia University.
  • 1980 to 1984 - Kate Daniels teaches as a part-time lecturer in creative writing at the University of Virginia.
  • 1984 - Kate Daniels serves as a Fellow at Harvard University's Bunting Institute.
  • 1984 - Kate Daniels receives the Agnes Lynch Starrett Award for her book of original poetry, The White Wave.
  • 1988 - Kate Daniels becomes an associate professor of English and director of the undergraduate creative writing program at Louisiana State University.
  • 1992 - Kate Daniels serves as a poet-in-residence at Wake Forest University.
  • December 1994 - Kate Daniels teaches in the English Department at Vanderbilt University.
  • June, 1995 to May, 1997 - Kate Daniels serves as a member of the creative writing program at Bennington College.
Further Reading
Daniels, Kate. "Porch-Sitting and Southern Poetry." In The Future of Southern Letters, edited by Jefferson Humphries and John Lowe, 61-71. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996.
Daniels, Kate "Kate Daniels." By T.W. Stanford, Ernest Suarez, and Amy Verner. Southbound: Interviews with Southern Poets. Columbia, MO: University of Missouri Press (1999): 200-222.
Turner, Daniel Cross "New Fugitives: Contemporary Poets of Countermemory and the Futures of Southern Poetry." The Mississippi Quarterly: The Journal of Southern Cultures 58:1 (2004-2005 WInter-Spring): 315-345.
Cite This Entry
  • APA Citation:

    Turner, D. C. Kate Daniels (1953– ). (2010, November 23). In Encyclopedia Virginia. Retrieved from http://www.EncyclopediaVirginia.org/Daniels_Kate_1953-.

  • MLA Citation:

    Turner, Daniel Cross. "Kate Daniels (1953– )." Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, 23 Nov. 2010. Web. READ_DATE.

First published: February 8, 2008 | Last modified: November 23, 2010

Contributed by Daniel Cross Turner, an assistant professor of American literature at Siena College, Loudonville, New York.


  • Kate Daniels reads her poem, "Funk."
  • Kate Daniels reads her poem, "Photos by William Christenberry"