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Our Andromeda

4.08  ·  Rating details ·  420 Ratings  ·  59 Reviews
"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 collection explores dark subjects--trauma, childbirth, loss of faith--and stark questions: What is the use of pain and grief? Is there another dimension in which our suffer
ebook, 96 pages
Published December 11th 2012 by Copper Canyon Press (first published October 16th 2012)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Deborah Markus
Feb 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
May 01, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 26, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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
mel burkeet
Dec 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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
Mme. Bookling ~
Mar 09, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Bill Tarlin
Nov 24, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 01, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Amy  Eller Lewis
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.
Jul 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Nicole Testa
Mar 14, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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.
Feb 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Patti K
Mar 13, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Eldonfoil TH*E Whatever Champion
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  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
the final poem of this book takes it from a 3 to a 4.
Apr 17, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry, reread, 2015, 2016
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  ·  review of another edition
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
Lisa Rector
Favorite poems are - Card 12: the Hanged Man, I wish I Had More Sisters, and To My Twenty-Four-Year-Old Self.
Shannon Mcconnell
Our Andromeda is heartbreakingly beautiful. It's a collection of poems written by a woman whose son was disabled during a difficult childbirth. She explores decision making and the idea of being content with the decisions you've made and the alternate universes that exist where you've taken an alternative route. The poems are funny, sad and stick with you after you've read them.
Fernando Pérez Pérez
Almost quit after the first section, then read some nice pieces, then waited, then quit. Midway, after a few Tarot-card themed - ekphrastic takes? Dunno. Probably worth a re-take, but I erased it from the e-reader. Ars longa vita brevis, e t c.
George Witte
Aug 08, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I came to My Andromeda for personal reasons, having heard that some poems in the collection dealt with the circumstance of a difficult birth and its aftermath. The concluding title poem is extraordinary: a powerful, frank, angry, and deeply affecting tour de force about a mother, a father, and their son, as they seek abidance in an abruptly-alien world, and find it in an imaginary universe. Several other poems touch on the same subject, and though shorter are equally strong. I was less persuaded ...more
Mar 20, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A collection that continually tugs at the same set of topics -- self-image, love and its pains, longing for a different life (including for her child) -- and that likes to explore the possibilities of the ideas it's working on. It's a collection with wit, energy, and clever leaps of imagery. It's also seems to me a collection precisely of a young poet in this American time -- solipsistic, striving for originality. So while I found the collection charming and enjoyable, I couldn't escape the sens ...more
Apr 10, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: to-buy, poetry
Read with my poetry-before-bed practice. There are a lot of poems in this collection that I don't "get"-- that seem to be all wordplay and no meaning. The ones I got, though, are probably my favorite poems so far this year. "Parallel" nearly broke me. The title poem (the last 20 pages of the book) shed light on the author and her son in a way that made me want to start the book again at the beginning armed with my new insight. Highly recommended, though feel free to skim for the poems that speak ...more
Love her, but didn't love this collection as much as I was hoping to. The subject matter is heartbreaking, but I guess maybe nothing will match her first book for me. The more accessible, conversational language that used to perfectly dilute her intense vocabulary & dense musicality seems to have become the default in her last two books, making them easier to digest but less strange and less thrilling. BUT I STILL LOVE HER. Gonna start this sad book over and read it again.
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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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“How anyone becomes herself/is a mystery.” 6 likes
“All gifts are riddles, all lives/are in the middle of mother-lives.” 5 likes
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