Born and raised in Mesilla, New Mexico, where her family’s multicultural history is deeply rooted, poet and novelist Carrie Fountain is the author of three books of poetry: The Life (Penguin, 2021), Instant Winner (Penguin, 2014), and Burn Lake (Penguin, 2010), winner of the 2009 National Poetry Series Award; selected by Natasha Trethewey, she also awarded the book this praise: “With grace and a keen attention to the implications of history, the poems in Burn Lake grapple with what it means to be tied to a place, knowing that our own losses are not only what is taken from us, but also what we take from others. ‘A road is the crudest faith in things to come,’ Fountain writes, suggesting the palpable longing that winds through these poems.” Fountain’s YA novel I’m Not Missing (2018, Flatiron Books)—which explores issues of abandonment, first love, splintering friendship, and forging ones’ own identity—is hailed as “utterly captivating, suspenseful, character-rich gift of a book” by Naomi Shihab Nye, and was a Bustle Best YA Book of July 2018. Her first children’s book, The Poem Forest(Candlewick Press, 2020) tells the story of American poet W.S. Merwin and the palm forest he grew from scratch on the island of Maui. She is currently adapting I’m Not Missing for the screen, working on a second YA novel, and finishing a third book of poems.
Fountain’s poems often use narrative to explore the tug of the unseen on the visible fabric of our days. In the wise, accessible, deeply emotional poems of Instant Winner, she captures a contemporary longing for spiritual meaning that’s wary of prepackaged wisdom, while in the poems of Burn Lake, she explores issues of progress, history, violence, sexuality, and the self. “Writing poetry has always been, quite simply, about trying to make sense of the experience of being in the world,” she said in an interview on Austin’s NPR station; then speaking about being a woman writer and mother of two, she continued, “I believe it’s a really daring political act to write about our bodies and our experiences with children.”
About her family history, Fountain has said, “My grandfather’s side of our family has been in southern New Mexico since before it became part of the United States in the Gadsden Purchase. My grandmother on my father’s side was born in Mexico and came to the U.S. to escape the Mexican Revolution. My mother is Scottish and German and was raised in New York City. She met my father in the Haight in San Francisco during his one year living away from Mesilla, in 1969. After my father was called home to take over the bar, my mother told him to come get her and marry her. So he drove his VW bug back to California and picked her up and drove her back to Mesilla. My mother had lived in Queens and San Francisco. Anyone who’s driven I-10 from, say, Tucson to Las Cruces, can imagine what a shock she was in for. Mesilla didn’t have paved roads until I was eight years old. We lived in an adobe house with a pot-bellied stove for heat. As a kid, I spent nearly every hour I wasn’t in school outside. We’d fish for crawdads in the ditches that brought water from the Rio Grande to the crops and orchards of Mesilla. We were wild, roamed free, came home at sundown covered in dust.”
Her honors include the Marlboro Poetry Prize, Austin Library Foundation’s Award for Literary Excellence, a residency with the Frank Waters Foundation, and Swink magazine’s Award for Emerging Writers. She was inducted in 2019 into the Texas Institute of Letters. Her poems have appeared in Tin House, Poetry, and The New Yorker, among many others.
She is the host of KUT’s This Is Just to Say, a radio show and podcast where she has intimate conversations on the writing life with other poets and writers, including such luminaries as Mahogany L. Browne, Aimee Nezhukumatathil, Carmen Giménez Smith, Ellen Bass, Marie Howe, Erika Meitner, Naomi Shihab Nye, Roger Reeves, Maggie Smith, Sarah Ruhl, Ada Limón, and Jericho Brown.
Fountain teaches creative writing workshops across the country, and served as writer-in-residence at St. Edward’s University for a number of years, where she mentored student writers and advised graduates interested in pursuing a career in writing. She earned a BA at New Mexico State University and an MFA at the James A. Michener Center for Writers at the University of Texas at Austin. In 2019, she was named Texas State Poet Laureate.
She lives in Austin, Texas with her husband, playwright and novelist Kirk Lynn, and their two children.