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About this poet

Born in New York, New York in 1976, Meghan O'Rourke graduated magna cum laude from Yale and received her MFA from Warren Wilson College in Asheville, NC. She began her literary career as an editorial assistant at The New Yorker, where she also worked as a fiction/nonfiction editor from 2000-2002.

O'Rourke's books of poetry include Halflife (W.W. Norton, 2007), which was a finalist for Britain's Forward First Book Prize, and Once (W.W. Norton, 2011).

Poet and New York Times reviewer Joel Brouwer compared the tone of Halflife to Elizabeth Bishop's: "O'Rourke makes room for many fields of memory in these poems, but locks many others away, often by employing a bemused, detached tone reminiscent of the famously reticent Elizabeth Bishop."

Formerly the poetry editor of the Paris Review and the literary editor of Slate Magazine, she is also a widely published critic and has contributed to The New York Times Book Review and the New Yorker. She received the 2005 Union League and Civic Arts Foundation Award from the Poetry Foundation, two Pushcart Prizes, the May Sarton Poetry Prize from the Academy of Arts and Science, and is the recipient of a Radcliffe Fellowship, a Lannan Literary Fellowship, and was recently named a 2014 Guggenheim Fellow. 

Ophelia to the Court

Meghan O'Rourke
My shoes are unpolished, my words smudged.
I come to you undressed (the lord, he whispers
Smut; that man, he whispers such). I bend
My thoughts, I submit, but a bird 
Keeps flying from my mind, it slippers
My feet and sings—barren world, 
I have been a little minx in it, not at all
Domestic, not at all clean, not at all blinking
At my lies. First he thought he had a wife, then 
(of course) he thought he had a whore. All
I wanted (if I may speak for myself) was: more.
If only one of you had said, I hold 
Your craven breaking soul, I see the pieces,
I feel them in my hands, idle silver, idle gold...
You see I cannot speak without telling what I am.
I disobey the death you gave me, love.
If you must be, then be not with me.

Copyright © 2010 by Meghan O'Rourke. Used by permission of the author.

Copyright © 2010 by Meghan O'Rourke. Used by permission of the author.

Meghan O'Rourke

Meghan O'Rourke

Born in New York in 1976, Meghan O'Rourke's first book of poetry, Halflife, was a finalist for Britain's Forward First Book Prize

by this poet

poem
Grew up on the Jersey Shore in the 1970s.
Always making margaritas in the kitchen,
always laughing and doing their hair up pretty,
sharing lipstick and shoes and new juice diets;
always splitting the bills to the last penny,
stealing each other’s clothes,
loving one another then turning and complaining
as soon
poem
We had a drink and got in bed.
That’s when the boat in my mouth set sail,
my fingers drifting in the shallows of your buzz cut.
And in the sound of your eye 
a skiff coasted—boarding it
I found all the bric-a-brac of your attic gloom,
the knives from that other island trip, 
the poison suckleroot lifted from God
poem
I.

Because I was born in a kingdom,
there was a king. At times
the king was a despot; at other times,
not. Axes flashed in the road

at night, but if you closed your eyes
sitting on the well-edge
amongst your kinspeople
and sang the ballads
then the silver did not appear
to be broken.  

Such were the