A picture of Dr. Katharyn Howd Machan

Katharyn Machan

Professor, Writing
School: School of Humanities and Sciences
Phone: 607-274-3325
Office: Smiddy Hall 424, Ithaca, NY 14850
Specialty: Creative Writing

Katharyn Howd Machan began teaching writing at Ithaca College in 1977. She grew up in Woodbury, Connecticut and Pleasantville, New York. She studied creative writing and literature at the College of Saint Rose for a Bachelor of Arts and at the University of Iowa for a Master of Arts, taught college for five years, returned to graduate school for a Ph.D. in Interpretation (Performance Studies) at Northwestern University and, now as a full professor, puts special emphasis on first-year seminars and Honors courses, all with a focus on fairy tales. She lives happily in Ithaca with her spouse, fellow poet and Director of the Office of Extended Studies, Eric Machan Howd, and both celebrate the lives of their two grown children, CoraRose and Benjamin.

Dr. Machan's poems have appeared in 39 collections, most recently A Slow Bottle of Wine (winner of the Jessie Bryce Niles 2019 Chapbook Competition), What the Piper Promised (winner of the Alexandria Quarterly Press 2018 Chapbook Competition), and Secret Music: Voices from Redwing, 1888 (Cayuga Lake Books, 2018). In November of 2017 FutureCycle Press published her chapbook Dark Matters and in 2018 her Selected Poems (which was selected by the editors as their Best  Book of the Year). She publishes individual poems steadily in numerous magazines (such as Nimrod, Yankee, The MacGuffin Reader, Snake Nation Review, Hanging Loose, Dogwood, Runes, Slipstream, The Beloit Poetry Journal, South Coast Poetry Journal, The Hollins Critic, The Salmon, West Branch, Seneca Review, Louisiana Literature, etc.) and anthologies/textbooks (The Bedford Introduction to LiteratureThe Best American Nonrequired Reading, Poetry: An Introduction, Early Ripening: American Women's Poetry Now, Sound and Sense, Writing Poems, Literature: Reading and Writing the Human Experience, etc.), and has won awards for them (such as the Ann Stanford Poetry Prize from the University of Southern California for her poem "Tess Clarion: Redwing, 1888" and the Luna Negra Prize from Kent State University for her poem "Gingerbread.") In 2002 she was named the first Poet Laureate of Tompkins County, New York.

As Zajal, she is also a professional belly dancer, celebrating spirituality and deep laughter, with a special interest in combining dance and poetry in performances and workshops, as is reflected in Belly Words.  In this capacity she taught for many years at the Community School of Music and Arts in Ithaca and on the Aegean island of Skyros for the UK-based Skyros Institute, which emphasizes holistic studies. As a fellow of the Gerontology Institute of Ithaca College she continues to teach a weekly year-round dance class at Longview, an Ithacare Community. She also offers, in her persona as Zajal the Sugarplum Fairy, original audience-participation StoryDance performances for and with children.


  • Poetry
  • Science Fiction & Fantasy
  • Performance
  • Fairy Tales
  • Memoir


  • Ph.D. Interpretation, Northwestern University, 1984
  • M.A. English, University of Iowa, 1975
  • B.A. English and Speech, The College of Saint Rose, 1974

Tompkins County's First Poet Laureate

In 2002, Katharyn Howd Machan was appointed as the first poet laureate for Tompkins County.