Margaret Szumowski grew up in Winterset, Iowa, the oldest of seven children. She learned to tap dance and twirl a fire baton – An experience that required wrapping the end of the baton in asbestos, dipping it in kerosene, then lighting it and hoping for the best. Twirling with fire and breathing the freezing air at football games led her to poetry.
She graduated from the University of Iowa and shortly thereafter took off for the Peace Corps and served in the Congo and Ethiopia. As a hostage in Uganda, she had the distinction of having her photo taken by Idi Amin – a sort of keepsake for him. Szumowski received her MFA from the University of Massachusetts, and at the end of her orals with Jim Tate, she commented on how much she enjoyed the program. Tate’s response: “Even more than being a hostage of Idi Amin?” accompanied by that great laugh of his.
Margaret Szumowski taught writing for many years at Springfield Technical Community College. Of all her teaching jobs, the community college was her favorite with students from age 16 to 80 and of all ethnic backgrounds. In 1998, she was recognized by the college for leadership and innovation. In 2001, she was honored with the Andrew Scibelli Chair for excellence in teaching. She studied with Marie Howe, Yusef Komunyakaa, Martha Rhodes, Mark Doty, Joshua Weiner, and Agah Shahid Ali at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, one of her favorite places.
2002 Peace Corps Writers Prize for Poetry.
2004 Artist’s Grant for Exceptional Work in Poetry by the Massachusetts Cultural Council.