After I graduated from the University of Nebraska and began writing society news headlines for a Lincoln newspaper, Jack Kerouac’s On the Road fell into my hands and changed my life. See “Those beats!” Soon I met a friend in the Denver Greyhound station. We stood gazing at a gigantic United States map. Where would we go next? My friend closed her eyes, I twirled her around, and she pointed her finger. In no time we were New Orleans bound, then California, then Portland. And finally, by myself, to New York.
New York’s impact made Kerouac’s look slight. After I’d been in the city two weeks, I’d seen so many standard sights that I became a tour guide. Eventually, (see Feminism) I had a job at Good Housekeeping, working as a part-time secretary and slush reader.
Before long, I broke out of everything: my marriage, my parenthood, my disdain for journalism, even out of my job. My last paycheck let me live like a beach bum on Martha’s Vineyard all summer. I wrote, real work: poetry, chapters of a novel, short stories. When I returned to New York that fall, I changed professions, swapping journalism for academia by teaching in Pratt Institute’s English and Humanities Department. I continued to write and began to read my poetry in public. (See Media.)
A lot has happened since. In addition to my Pushcart prize-winning “Pricksong” and my book-length poem, The Cretan Cycle, more than seventy of my six hundred poems have been published, some in journals such as New American Review, Sunbury, New England Journal, and Manhattan Poetry Review and others in newspapers, newsletters, or anthologies. My first on-line poetry publication, “Peace March 1967”. I’ve read my poetry in more than 30 different venues in six states (New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska). And I studied with Allen Ginsberg in the Zen Mountain Monastery near Woodstock, NY.
The University of Nebraska named me a Master Alumnus for distinction in writing. My manuscripts, letters, journals and other papers are now in The Marilyn Coffey Collection in the Archives of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Libraries.