Katy Ilonka

The Woman Invention

Poetry & Essays

Poems for MIT Students


The Woman Invention

Poetry chapbook forthcoming from Finishing Line Press October 2018.

Reading Katy Ilonka’s book, I keep hearing Ginger Rogers’s famous line: “I did everything Fred did, only backwards and in high heels.” Don’t get me wrong -- there’s nothing retro about these strikingly 21st century poems -- but they do enact a passionate and skeptical dance. Ilonka challenges the binaries of male and female, nature and nurture, in language that is provocative, energetic and witty. As both scientist and poet, she’s devising The Woman Invention. “Bleed into this / new way of being yourself / by wading through the inevitable selves / of others. Feel their panic at being so / different from you. Feed off of it. / This is what invention feels like.”
- Erica Funkhouser

These poems are angry, visceral, fragile: real. A stark representation of what it is to be a woman during turbulent times, Katy's poems grab you by throat and tell you to open your eyes, your ears. Stunning.
- Annabelle Carvell, co-founder and editor of Synaesthesia Magazine



Poems for MIT Students

Poems for MIT Students is a chapbook of 24 poems by MIT students, for MIT students.

This book is the result of a poetry competition I ran in 2013, soliciting poems from the community written about the MIT experience, telling people they could use all the internal names and references (Lobby 10, Course 4, Building 36--MIT is all about numbers) that only their peers would recognize. It was an exercise in processing our experience internally, not for others but for ourselves, though of course it also allows others a look inside.

Three winners were selected and given cash prizes; 24 poems were selected for the book and 1000 copies of the book were printed for the 2013 graduation festivities. Many people helped make it all happen: Erica Funkhouser, Mary Fuller, Alexandriya Edmonds, Luke Plummer, Paulina Mustafa, Sebastian Denault, Ned Burnell, Angelique Mehmzow. Many campus groups and institute departments helped fund this project: the Literature, History, and Writing and Humanistic Studies Departments, the Art Scholars, the Office of Student Citizenship, and the Undergraduate Association.

You can download a pdf version of the book here.


I'm a PhD student in Computer Science at Columbia University. My poetry has followed me through many engineering careers, where I am almost always the only female engineer. At Columbia, I study how computers can help people be more creative.

I was awarded the MIT John Hildebidle Poetry Prize for Poems for MIT Students.

You can find my academic career here.

Last updated May, 2018