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‘Cat in the Stack: Brenda Shaughnessy

By Daniella Snyder

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I’m Daniella Snyder, a graduate student at Villanova University, and your ‘Cat in Falvey Library’s Stacks. I’ll be posting about academics–from research to study habits and everything in between–and how the Falvey Memorial Library can play a large role in your success here on campus!

Brenda Shaughnessy Headshot

Source: PoetryFoundation.org

This week, Falvey would have hosted poet Brenda Shaughnessy for a public reading in Speakers’ Corner as part of the English Department’s annual Literary Festival. While we cannot be there in person to hear Shaughnessy read, we can still appreciate her work and learn more about her. This week, my stack is filled with her poetry.

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, Shaughnessy is an Associate Professor of English and Creative Writing at Rutgers University-Newark. She lives in Verona, New Jersey, with her family, according to her website.

Shaughnessy’s work is known for its ability to twin opposites: her poems are both playful and erotic, lyrical and funny, formal and strange. Reviewing Human Dark with Sugar, poet Cate Peebles noted that “Shaughnessy draws attention to the contradiction of being made up of so many parts while appearing to be one single body.”

In the New Yorker, Hilton Als said of her book, Our Andromeda: “it further establishes Shaughnessy’s particular genius, which is utterly poetic, but essayistic in scope, encompassing ideas about astronomy, illness, bodies, the family, ‘normalcy,’ home.”

Hilton Als’ description of Our Andromeda, and the mention of illness, bodies, the family, normalcy, and home, sounds like Shaughnessy’s poetry may help us work through our current moment.

Want to read Our Andromeda, but cannot access the collection online? Watch this 2013 video from the Chicago Humanities Festival, in which Shaughnessy reads a fair amount of her poetry from the collection.

If you want to stay connected with Brenda Shaughnessy, I recommend following her on Twitter (@brendashaughnes). Like many other authors, artists, and musicians, she shared that she will be posting about the books getting her through these uncertain times:

A Tweet by Brenda Shaughnessy, described in paragraph above. "I'm going to post about the books getting me through. #1: How is Jenny Offill such a genius? First page of Weather and I can barely turn to the second because it is so perfect and luminous and luscious I don't want it to be over, ever."

Here’s the page she’s referencing:

The first page of Weather by Jenny Offill.

While it is certainly disappointing that we will not be able to see Shaughnessy in person, I hope this brief overview offers a chance to get to know one of our Lit Fest authors a little better.

 


Daniella Snyder Headshot

Daniella Snyder is a graduate assistant in the Communication & Marketing department at Falvey Memorial Library, and a graduate student in the English department. This week, she’s reading Call Me By Your Name, a book that was recommended to her by the VU Book Club (@vubookclub).

 


 


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Last Modified: April 1, 2020