Marilyn Nelson, born in Cleveland, Ohio, is the daughter of a member of the last graduating class of Tuskegee Airmen. Her mother was a teacher. She is the author or translator of over twenty-four books. The Homeplace (1990) was a finalist for the National Book Award. The Fields of Praise: New and Selected Poems (1997) won the 1998 Poets' Prize and was a finalist for the 1997 National Book Award, the PEN Winship Award, and the Lenore Marshall Prize. The Cachoiera Tales and Other Poems (2005) won the L.E. Phillabaum Award and was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Award.
Her numerous young adult books include Carver: A Life in Poems (2001), which received the Flora Stieglitz Straus Award and the Boston Globe/Horn Book Award, was a National Book Award finalist and was designated both a Newbery Honor Book and a Coretta Scott King Honor Book. Another of her young adult books, A Wreath For Emmett Till, also won the 2005 Boston Globe/Horn Book Award and was designated a 2006 Coretta Scott King Honor Book, a 2006 Michael L. Printz Honor Book, and a 2006 Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award Honor Book.
Her honors include two NEA creative writing fellowships, the 1990 Connecticut Arts Award, an A.C.L.S. Contemplative Practices Fellowship, the Department of the Army's Commander's Award for Public Service, a Fulbright Teaching Fellowship and a fellowship from the J.S. Guggenheim Memorial Foundation.
Marilyn was awarded the 2012 Frost Medal, the Poetry Society of America's most prestigious award, for "distinguished lifetime achievement in poetry."