Human Dark with Sugar

Brenda Shaughnessy

Winner of the James Laughlin Award from the Academy of American Poets for the best second book of poems by an American poet, Brenda Shaughnessy’s Human Dark with Sugar revisits and modernizes the classic themes that have inspired generations of poets. Love. Loss. Sex. Rejection. Pain. Time. Exploring the strange wonder that is perception, Shaughnessy pressures language and holds nothing back; her poems encompass emotional states such as tenderness, devotion, resignation, bitterness, and rage. Shaughnessy masters internal rhymes and surprising rhythms—her poetry is at once improvisational, impeccably controlled, and highly refined.

ISBN: 9781556592768

Format: Paperback

About the Author

Brenda Shaughnessy was born in Okinawa, Japan and grew up in Southern California. She is the author of Our Andromeda (Copper Canyon Press, 2012); Human Dark with Sugar (Copper Canyon Press, 2008), winner of the James Laughlin Award and finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award; and Interior with Sudden Joy (FSG, 1999). Shaughnessy’s poems have appeared in The Best American Poetry, Harper’s, The Nation, The Rumpus, The New Yorker, and The Paris Review. She is an assistant professor …

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“In Human Dark with Sugar, poet Brenda Shaughnessy, mistress of eclectic diction and erotic wordplay, brazenly bends language to her will.” —Vanity Fair

“In its worried acceptance of contradiction, its absolute refusal of sentimentality and its acute awareness of time’s ‘scarce infinity,’ this is a brilliant, beautiful and essential continuation of the metaphysical verse tradition.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review

Human Dark with Sugar is both wonderfully inventive (studded with the strangenesses of ‘snownovas’ and ‘flukeprints’) and emotionally precise. Her ‘I’ is madly multidexterous—urgent, comic, mischievous—and the result is a new topography of the debates between heart and head.” —Matthea Harvey, a judge for the Laughlin Award

“[I admire] the agility and surprise of the book’s verbal sleights of hand and the immediacy of its address, its braiding of an existential dark with the ‘sugar’ of eros.” —Peter Gizzi, a judge for the Laughlin Award

“In Human Dark with Sugar the speaker’s voice brims with verve, rueful good humor, and self-knowledge: ‘To be wise is simply to be understood, even missed.'” —Caroline Knox, a judge for the Laughlin Award

“Shaughnessy strikes an interesting detente between emotive qualities of poetry and its need to offer something that transcends mere emotion: a poetic practice that forwards a politics, grapples with the sensual, and confronts cultural issues without oversimplifying… this work reminds us that the first step of successful pathos is an instant and visceral reaction, the real reward for those who love to be astonished. Strongly recommended for all libraries.” —Library Journal, starred review

Human Dark with Sugar is sometimes confessional, sometimes speculative, sometimes wistful, but always energetic and often moving.” —Foreword

“… sexy and sensual and slinky and wild and witchy poems… These poems are as easy to walk into as a public park… The book feels… very much ‘about’ what it feels like to be alive.” —Corduroy Books

“As I read Shaughnessy’s poems, I can’t help hearing not only her poetic ancestors but Abbott and Costello as well: not the film bumblers being chased by Frankenstein but the double-talkers whose ‘Who’s on First?’ routine is often imitated, never duplicated. People are funny. Words are funnier. And poems, when they’re at their smartest and best-made, are funniest of all.” —New York Times Sunday Book Review

“In poem after poem, Shaughnessy keeps altering, with intelligent, witty, and sexy verve, the pitch between the measurable objective world… and the unfathomable depths of cosmic and human darkness.” —Virginia Quarterly Review

Human Dark with Sugar, winner of the Academy of American Poet’s James Laughlin Award, is a volume not just to be appreciated but to be incanted.” —Magill Book Reviews