Our Andromeda

Brenda Shaughnessy

In Brenda Shaughnessy’s Our Andromeda, playful musicality and deadpan humor meld with blunt questions and a plea for an alternate galaxy in which merciful do-overs are possible. In this imagined world, the speaker has a band of sisters, “enough to fight with and still / have plenty to confess to”; access to past and future selves; and, finally, a chance to protect her newborn baby from irrevocable harm. Throughout these poems, Shaughnessy blasts apart our typical expectations while she maintains the familiar and consoles sufferers in the real world of hostile truths. As when she imagines a world where she is “magical and can cook lamb and rice / pudding and pour many drinks” without taking her hands off the ones she loves, she proves herself a fierce, oracular guardian of family: “Be strange to yourself, / in your love, your grief.” 

ISBN: 9781556594106

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 …

Read more


Honored as a New York Times Book Review “100 Best Books of 2013” and a Library Journal “Book of the Year”

Highlighted on NPR’s list of “5 Books of Poems to Get You Through the Summer”

“Love is the fierce engine of this beautiful and necessary book of poems. Love is the high stakes, the whip of its power and grief and possibility for repair. Brenda Shaughnessy has brought her full self to bear in Our Andromeda, and the result is a book that should be read now because it is a collection whose song will endure.” —New York Times Sunday Book Review

“It is a monumental work, and makes a hash of those tired superlatives that will no doubt crop up in subsequent reviews. But the truth is that I have no single opinion about this collection—how could I? The book is a series of narratives that resist interpretation but not feeling—except that I am certain 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.” —New Yorker

“Another Brooklyn poet, Marianne Moore, defined poetry as ‘imaginary gardens, with real toads in them.’ In Our Andromeda, Shaughnessy has imagined a universe, and in it, real love moves, quick with life.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review

“Brenda Shaughnessy… laments and sometimes makes narratives about the struggle to keep her small family together in the aftermath of a difficult birth. In the title poem, she posits a galaxy far, far away where familial love might overtake all woe and turmoil of the heart and body and mind. Once there, she says to her son, ‘you’ll have the babyhood you deserved.’ She also delivers a number of lovely lyrics in a supple, plainly stated line; some merely expressive, some with a philosophically questioning air; on fate, dreams, the present time’s long gaze back at the past—you know, all the good things poets write about.” —Alan Cheuse, NPR

“Shaughnessy articulates, with force and clarity, the transformation that motherhood has required of her. Her poems are full of regret and ferocity.” —Boston Review

“We only get one chance, but imagining if we could have another always makes us wonder. Our Andromeda is a collection of poetry from Brenda Shaughnessy, who explores the possibilities of a second chance in life and what could come of it. Enticing and thoughtful, Our Andromeda is a fine addition to contemporary poetry shelves.” —Midwest Book Review