Elaine Magarrell was born in Clinton, Iowa, June 2, 1928 of immigrant Jewish parents and came of age in this small town during World War II. Her father owned a ladies' ready-to-wear shop where the whole family helped out. She was educated at the University of Iowa and Drake University. She and her husband, Jack Magarrell, raised their family in Des Moines and Iowa City. Although she wrote poetry from the age of ten, she burned the early work and did not write again until she was in her forties and teaching English in a public junior high school. In 1981, Magarrell quit her job as a library clerk at the Washington Bureau of the New York Times to write full time.
On Hogback Mountain (1985), her first book of poetry, won the Washington Writers' Publishing House Prize, and her subsequent book, Blameless Lives (1991), won the Washington Word Works Prize. Her poems are also included in the poetry collection Inventory. Her fiction and poetry appear in a number of literary journals, and she is a four-time recipient of grants in literature from the District of Columbia Commission on Arts and Humanities.
Elaine is survived by her husband Jack Magarrell and children, Debra Conklin, Lisa and Dan Magarell, and grandchildren Mandy and Sophie Magarrell and Ross and Kent Conklin, and her brother David Reisler.
Donations may be made to Word Works, P.O. Box 42164, Washington D.C. 20015 for publication of her final book of poetry.
Published in the Des Moines Register on Jul. 27, 2014.