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Our Andromeda

4.06  ·  Rating details ·  559 ratings  ·  77 reviews
Honored as a New York Times Book Review "100 Notable Books of 2013"

Honored by Cosmopolitan as the one poetry title on their list of “Best Books of the Year For Women, by Women”

"A heady, infectious celebration."—The New Yorker

"Shaughnessy's voice is smart, sexy, self-aware, hip . . . consistently wry, and ever savvy."—Harvard Review

Brenda Shaughnessy's heartrending third co
Paperback, 131 pages
Published September 18th 2012 by Copper Canyon Press
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Deborah Markus
Feb 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing
A poem’s job is to be beautiful.

A poem’s job is not just to teach, but to make a reader eager to show up for class every day.

A poem’s truth should be at once stunningly obvious and blindingly original.

A poem should make us happy to slow down and savor in a world of fast-food writing.

Reading a poem should only be work in the sense that some people are lucky enough to have jobs they love so much they’d do them for free.

Reading a poem should be the kind of workout that makes you feel shaky but stro
Apr 06, 2013 rated it really liked it
I read this book of poetry collection again today, on Mother's Day. As a rendering of motherhood, it is so primal and inventive and pissy: "I know I am his mother, but I can't/ quite click on the word's essential aspects,/ can't denude the flora/ or disrobe the kind of housecoat/ "mother" always is. Something/ cunty, something used."

Shaughnessy loves words, their liquidity, playfulness, doubling, but she also mistrusts their naming of things. The book is best when she is pressing on that mistru
James Murphy
Jan 29, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Brenda Shaughnessy writes love poetry, I think. Not romantic love poetry, exactly. The long poem "Our Andromeda" which closes this volume and which lovingly imagines an alternate world where her son, Cal, who is seemingly disabled in some way and fragile, is heartbreakingly about a mother's love for her son. But Shaughnessy is in love with the world around her, too. Her poetry, while it recognizes the warts of the world, generously welcomes whatever she comes into contact with. She acknowledges ...more
May 01, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
Shaughnessy plays wonderful with sound. Her poems beg to be read out loud. She conveys very specific ideas and images in a punchy way, making you wonder how you never thought of that before. She writes from a mother's perspective in this collection, and the title poem, over 20 pages long, is gripping, emotional, and beautiful.

Particular favorites include: "Streetlamps," "To My Twenty-Three-Year-Old Self," "To My Twenty-Four-Year-Old Self," "To My Twenty-Five-Year-Old Self," and "To My Twenty-Ei
Oct 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This third collection of Shaughnessy's is as sure and sharp as an archer's eye, and it finds its targets. The mystery of love; the bravery of living; the hard-won wisdom that comes from experience. These poems feel deeply inhabited, soul-making, celebratory.
Peycho Kanev
Jan 28, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
Why Should Only Cheaters and Liars Get Double Lives?

(a poem inside a poem)

That is, why should they get two stabs at it while the virtuous
trudge along at half-speed, half-mast, halfhearted?

If an ordinary human can pull the fattest cashwad
out of the slimmest slit,

and the fullest pudding out of the skimmest milk,
then it might be possible

to insert a meager life in Andromeda
into, at the very least, our wide pit of sleep.

Duplicity after all takes many, not merely two, forms,
and just the very idea

of do
Not sure how I went thru all of college/most of my MFA without reading Shaughnessy. There is something so nebulous and expansive about her poetry. The title poem was one of my absolute favorites in this collection, her syntax is so juicy / thought provoking / planetary.
Aug 13, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: poetry
Some lovely parts near the start but it's otherwise all a little sing-songy, pun-laden, quick and whimsical for me, not to mention I'd probably get into a shouting match with its author over ethical disagreements were we to ever find ourselves in the same room.
Nov 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is essential reading for all parents and all educators and all people who are human. She's really done it. The Sylvia-Plathian-screed of motherhood -- but a specific kind that most of us can't relate to. Both angry and propulsive, Shaughnessy has us in her grip; she makes us listen. If you know me in real life, I'll probably make you read it. I just can't say enough about this work of incredibly beautiful, distinctive, artistic, confessional poetry.
Sep 26, 2012 rated it really liked it
I was introduced to Brenda Shaughnessy’s Interior with Sudden Joy by my MFA mentor and I was immediately caught by her cleverness and inclination to blend philosophy with poetry. While I enjoyed some poems in that collection, I tended to shy away by the big words she used. Then, her next collection Human Dark with Sugar is more accessible yet witty and spicy at the same time. Her Our Andromeda gives me mixed feelings and I think I should give an overall 3.5 stars to this book. My favorite sectio ...more
Nov 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
Fierce collection. Lucid and gripping.

"That loud hub of us,/ meat stub of us, beating us/ senseless."

"There are always places, none of them mine."

"Feelings seem like made-up things,/ though I know they're not."

"year after ancient,/ ridiculous year."

"That's what you get for believing in aliens,/ for replacing our earhorn of plenty/ with a megaphone of corpsedust."

"this world/ butted up against the next."

"Whatever meaning the word itself/ is covering, like underwear,/ that meaning is so mere and m
Melissa Barrett
Dec 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A lovely book, rich in style. One of the major themes (parenting) I find to be less powerful than the word play, rhyme, and sonic edge found in so many poems.

Some favorite lines:

-A book that took too long to read but minutes to unread--that is--to forget.

-An idea like a stormcloud that does not spill / or arrive but moves silently in a direction. / Like a dark book in a long life with a vague / hope in a wood house with an open door.

-The books on the bookshelves are touching themselves / like v
Oct 24, 2012 rated it really liked it
I'm torn between 4 and 5 stars on this one. There were some poems, particularly closer to the beginning, that seemed damn near perfect in tone, language, sound and meaning. Those alone seem worth 5 stars. I struggled with the latter half of the book though. Some of these intensely personal poems failed to grab me in, say, the way Jack Gilbert's work does. The long poem, "Our Andromeda," I wanted to love. It's heartbreaking in its opening, but what seemed an attempt to sustain that level of inten ...more
Bill Tarlin
Nov 24, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
There are lots of great poems in this book. Shaughnessy's signature internal rhymes and personifications are engaging. Like most collections the poems that are just "OK" are disappointing because I want to be wowed every time. But enough deliver to make this highly recommended.
What makes the book essential is the long title poem that concludes the book. It is witty, painful, angry and exultant; sometimes all at once. Our Andromeda is a cry for escape to another galaxy where the stupid fact of hu
Candace Morris
Mar 09, 2013 rated it really liked it
I stumbled into the poetry of Shaugnessy via Cheryl Strayed's FB page, who recommended it. I gave my daughter the middle name 'Andromeda' so I am always interested when I see it chosen as a name for something else. I wasn't prepared for the heart-break and beauty of her poetry, especially the title poem. Though I hate to draw comparisons (namely because I hate it when people do that with my own writing), but I kept vibing Plath in her poems, seeing the flatness of blunt thoughts which are simult ...more
Jul 01, 2013 rated it really liked it
Good, but I sometimes felt that even these excellent poems could have gone a little deeper. What I like about this book, though, is that even the pieces that appear to have common, everyday subjects, like "Magi," have dark and sharp edges that leave one surprised without succumbing to gore or cheap thrills. Her thoughts about parenting in poems like "Hearth" remind me of Sharon Olds.

I hope this poet becomes more famous.
Jul 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Our Andromeda was surprising and WONDERFUL. It is a poetry collection that envisions a parallel existence of each of us in the Andromeda galaxy, somehow free of our Earthly prejudices and fears. The writing is beautiful. In particular, the last long piece about Shaughnessy's son is heart-rending and really clear and sharp about her experiences with him. It's a wonderful collection, highly recommend.
Amy  Eller Lewis
Sep 09, 2014 rated it really liked it
I don't read a lot of poetry, and not contemporary poetry at all. Perhaps I had my fill at workshops in my MFA program. I find so much of contemporary poetry to be just poems about how hard it is to make a poem. But these poems are About Things -- not just Abstract Things like "Love" or "Justice" or "Loss" (though they are about them too), but about Things That Happened. There is a SF-nal quality to them that I liked as well. Has happily put me on a poetry kick.
Nov 07, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: for-school, poetry
Most of these poems just didn't make it through my thick skull. The language is playful and energetic, but I'm not super in touch with my emotions—I don't trust them, really— so all of this emotional flailing made me take a few mental steps back. In language, I value clarity over style. On those poems where she achieves both (i.e. the title poem "Our Andromeda"), I was with her all the way. But there weren't quite enough of those to make me want to read more.
Patti K
Mar 13, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
This 2012 book of poems is Shaughnessy's third book. The long, title poem
is extravagant with both sorrow and joy. It concerns the birth of her son
who suffered complications and may not be able to walk or talk. The courage
of this meditation is astounding. The other poems do not shine as much. I
Feb 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This book and "Metaphysical Dog" by Frank Bidart were the only two collections of poetry in the New York Times, 100 notable books of 2013. I didn't particularly like or get into Bidart's book, but his one is quite skillfully written with unusual and creative word use that I found quite interesting and illuminating. A great collection of poetry.
Nicole Testa
Mar 14, 2014 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book. I enjoyed the third section, "Our Andromeda" the most, and her poems to her younger self were particularly startling and resonant. Shaughnessy pays such close attention to the sound of her poetry, rather than just the images they show, and is playful with her use of words in a way that made her poetry even more enjoyable to read.
Aug 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
This was a good, highly readable, collection. Interesting and fun play on language where nouns and verbs are used as different parts of grammar. The classic themes are here, life and death, birth and dying, marriage and friendship. All good. The final very long poem, 22 pages, is amazing and needs to be read, no spoiler here.
Apr 02, 2015 rated it it was ok
[...] I look at
things I don’t understand

and want them
though what I want
is understanding.

I take them anyway,
turning them over and over
in my hands

in the dark
as if holding such
things can give me

back some sense
of what it was like
to really want something

regardless of what
I had already
or how long I’d waited.
Eldonfoil TH*E Whatever Champion
Apr 04, 2014 rated it did not like it
Shelves: poetry
Cosmopolitan lets me down again. That magazine has not recovered from the disaster of spring, 1882.
Adam Wilson
Oct 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Holy shit. This book destroyed me. So full of pain and anger and love. So raw and ugly and beautifully alive. Holy shit.
J. Sebastian
Oct 02, 2016 rated it really liked it
the final poem of this book takes it from a 3 to a 4.
Apr 17, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry, reread, 2016, 2015
high points are suuuuper high. shaughnessy makes me most swoony when she turns the music up to 12.
Nov 26, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shaughnessy’s style is snarky yet daunting, on occasion, for a poet of my caliber. I found myself laughing aloud one moment and then struggling to decipher the next. This latest collection fluctuates from the real to the fantastical as she creates an alternate reality that takes place in the Andromeda Galaxy. It corrects every wrong that she has endured and it climaxes in the last poem—a 21 page title piece addressed to her disabled son, Cal. It is a tell-all about how he was born with brain dam ...more
Patricia Murphy
Apr 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
What a wild ride! Humor, pain, destiny, future.

Some of my favorite moments:

Stop belonging to me so much, face-head.

Feelings seem like made-up things, though I know they’re not.

What if all possible pain was only the grief of truth?

Why is that child least loved by its own grown self?

A prayer is like a fishmouth, opening dumbly onto just more water at best or a hook if it really wants an answer.

How could I have been a better mother? I would have needed a better self, and that is a gift I never rec
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Brenda Shaughnessy was born in Okinawa, Japan, in 1970 and grew up in Southern California. She received her B.A. in literature and women's studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and she earned an M.F.A. at Columbia University.

She is the author of Human Dark with Sugar (Copper Canyon Press, 2008), winner of the James Laughlin Award from the Academy of American Poets, and Interior with

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