poem index

sign up to receive a new poem-a-day in your inbox

About this poet

Brenda Shaughnessy was born in Okinawa, Japan, in 1970 and grew up in Southern California. She received her BA in literature and women’s studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and she earned an MFA at Columbia University.

She is the author of So Much Synth (Copper Canyon Press, 2016); Our Andromeda (Copper Canyon Press 2012), which was a finalist for the Griffin International Poetry Prize and the Kingsley Tufts Award; Human Dark with Sugar (Copper Canyon Press, 2008), winner of the James Laughlin Award from the Academy of American Poets; and Interior with Sudden Joy (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1999), which was nominated for the PEN/Joyce Osterweil Award for Poetry, a Lambda Literary Award, and the Norma Farber First Book Award.

About her work, the poet Richard Howard writes: “The resonance of Shaughnessy’s poems is that of someone speaking out of an ecstasy and into an ecstasy, momentarily pausing to let us in on the fun, the pain.”

Shaughnessy is a 2013 Guggenheim Foundation Fellow and a recipient of a Howard Foundation Fellowship from Brown University, a 2001 Bunting Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University, and a Japan/US Friendship Commission Artist Fellowship.  She currently serves as an associate professor at Rutgers University–Newark. 


Bibliography

So Much Synth (Copper Canyon Press, 2016)
Our Andromeda (Copper Canyon Press 2012)
Human Dark with Sugar (Copper Canyon Press, 2008)
Interior with Sudden Joy (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1999)

Big Game

        —after Richard Brautigan's "A Candlelion Poem"

What began as wildfire ends up
on a candle wick. In reverse,
it is contained,

a lion head in a hunter's den.
Big Game.

Bigger than one I played
with matches and twigs and glass
in the shade.

When I was young, there was no sun
and I was afraid.

Now, in grownhood, I call the ghost
to my fragile table, my fleshy supper,
my tiny flame.

Not just any old, but THE ghost,
the last one I will be,

the future me,
finally the sharpest knife
in the drawer.

The pride is proud.
The crowd is loud, like garbage dumping

or how a brown bag ripping
sounds like a shout
that tells the town the house

is burning down.
Drowns out some small folded breath

of otherlife: O that of a lioness licking her cubs to sleep in a dream of
savage gold.

O that roaring, not yet and yet
and not yet dead.

So many fires start in my head.

Copyright © 2012 by Brenda Shaughnessy. Used with permission of the author.

Copyright © 2012 by Brenda Shaughnessy. Used with permission of the author.

Brenda Shaughnessy

Brenda Shaughnessy

Brenda Shaughnessy was born in Okinawa, Japan, in 1970 and grew up in Southern California. She is the author of So Much Synth (Copper Canyon Press, 2016).

by this poet

poem
I don't like what the moon is supposed to do.
Confuse me, ovulate me,

spoon-feed me longing. A kind of ancient
date-rape drug. So I'll howl at you, moon,

I'm angry. I'll take back the night. Using me to
swoon at your questionable light,

you had me chasing you,
the world's worst lover, over and over

hoping
2
poem
Oh, to be ready for it, unfucked, ever-fucked.
To have only one critical eye that never
divides a flaw from its lesson.

To play without shame. To be a woman
who feels only the pleasure of being used
and who reanimates the user's

anguished release in a land
for the future to relish, to buy
new tights for, to
poem

Alarmed, today is a new dawn,
and that affair recurs daily like clockwork,

undone at dusk, when a new restaurant
emerges in the malnourished night.

We said it would be this way, once this became
the way it was. So in a way we were

waiting for it. I still haven’t eaten, says the cook