Brenda Shaughnessy


Brenda Shaughnessy is the author of five poetry collections, including The Octopus Museum (2019, Knopf); So Much Synth (2016, Copper Canyon Press);  Our Andromeda (2012), which was a finalist for the Kingsley Tufts Award, The International Griffin Prize, and the PEN Open Book Award.  Her work has appeared in Best American Poetry, Harpers, The New York Times, The New Yorker, O Magazine, Paris Review, Poetry Magazine, and elsewhere. Recent collaborative projects include writing a libretto for a Mass commissioned by Trinity Church Wall Street for composer Paola Prestini, and a poem-essay for the exhibition catalog for Toba Khedoori’s solo retrospective show at LACMA.  A 2013 Guggenheim Foundation Fellow, she is Associate Professor of English and Creative Writing at Rutgers University-Newark. She lives in Verona NJ with her family. Source

The Poets Are Dying

It seems impossible

they seemed immortal.


Where are they going

if not to their next poems?


Poems that, like lives, make do

and make that doing do more—-


holding a joly like a newborn,

a volta turning toward a god-load


of grief dumped from some heaven

where words rain down


and the poet is soaked. Cold

to the bone, we’ve become. Thick-


headed, death-bedded, heartsick.

Poets. Flowers picked, candles wicked,


forgiving everyone they tricked.





Literary Movements:


Anthology Years:



Ars Poetica

Literary Devices:


the absence of a conjunction (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so…) between phrases and within a sentence

Bleeding Title

when the title of a poem acts as the first line


a break between words within a metrical foot


a line break interrupting the middle of a phrase which continues on to the next line


a compound expression in Old English and Old Norse poetry with metaphorical meaning


a comparison between two unrelated things through a shared characteristic


the attribution of human qualities to a non-human thing

Rhetorical Question

a question asked for effect, not necessarily to be answered

Varied syntax

diverse sentence structure