The Octopus Museum
Knopf, March 2019
Informed by Brenda Shaughnessy’s craft as a poet and her worst fears as a mother, the poems in The Octopus Museum blaze forth from her pen: in these pages, we see that what was once a generalized fear for our children (car accidents, falling from a tree) is now hyper-reasonable, specific, and multiple: school shootings, nuclear attack, loss of health care, a polluted planet. As Shaughnessy conjures our potential future, she movingly (and often with humor) envisions an age where cephalopods might rule over humankind, a fate she suggests we may just deserve after destroying their oceans. These heartbreaking, terrified poems are the battle cry of a woman who is fighting for the survival of the world she loves, and a stirring exhibition of who we are as a civilization.
So Much Synth
Copper Canyon, 2016
In So Much Synth, Brenda Shaughnessy revisits the romances, isolation, and music of adolescence. This book is composed of equal parts femininity, pain, pleasure, critique and synthesizer. Hilton Als of The New Yorker calls the book "utterly poetic, but essayistic in scope."
Copper Canyon, 2012
Brenda Shaughnessy’s third collection, Our Andromeda, delves into the idea of parallel existence by imagining the galaxy of Andromeda as a utopian. At once humorous and heart-breaking, fanciful and filled with difficult realities, Shaughnessy takes on the vastness of the universe by turning inward, examining human vulnerabilities as they are manifested in the struggles surrounding motherhood, human frailty, and a divided self.
Human Dark With Sugar
Copper Canyon, 2008
Winner of the James Laughlin Award from the Academy of American Poets for the best second book of poems by an American poet, Brenda Shaughnessy’s Human Dark with Sugar revisits and modernizes the classic themes that have inspired generations of poets. Love. Loss. Sex. Rejection. Pain. Time. Exploring the strange wonder that is perception, Shaughnessy pressures language and holds nothing back; her poems encompass emotional states such as tenderness, devotion, resignation, bitterness, and rage. Shaughnessy masters internal rhymes and surprising rhythms—her poetry is at once improvisational, impeccably controlled, and highly refined.