Into certain poems, Brenda Shaughnessy invites you. Or anyway you’ll hope it’s you she’s importuning. All great writing strives to bring you inside; Shaughnessy’s threatens to bring you inside and bury you. And you’ll still want to go. Judging a book by its cover, of course, is a proverbial mistake, but when it comes to poets it’s hardly wrong to judge a book by its title. So savor these, and then try not to knock on her door: Interior with Sudden Joy and Human Dark with Sugar. Yes? That you? Here for the erotic, the intelligent, the dark, the deep? Sure, come in. Shaughnessy’s 2013 collection is entitled Our Andromeda. Less quixotic a title, perhaps, but as big inside as the name suggests–revelatory and constellatory.
The Shaughnessy house here becomes a mansion. (You know, don’t you, that mansions are scary places?) The big space makes the small things stand out in stark relief, and gives the large things–motherhood, aging, identity, pain, parallel worlds–space to move around in. Shaughnessy was born in Japan, educated in California. Her poems have appeared in all the places poems hope to: The New Yorker, The Paris Review, The Yale Review and their kindred. She gets awards, of course. But the highest accolade is this: read her and you’ll remember the words.