One of the best book purchases I’ve made recently is a new volume of poetry by Brenda Shaughnessy. I discovered this book while perusing other titles on Amazon (gotta love Amazon’s “suggestions” based on your search terms! All the things you didn’t know you wanted!) and was intrigued by the blurb and the praise for this writer I had not previous known about.
The book is titled New Andromeda, and one of the things the description online noted, was how deliberately Shaughnessy treats motherhood and the loss of personal identity that comes with the passage traveled from maidenhood to motherhood. As a poet and a mother myself, this had my attention; motherhood, to me, seems at once too large and chimera. I’ve never been able to talk about the ways I don’t recognize myself some days and the ways that I feel, in completely unexpected moments, that I’ve always been nurturing my tiny humans.
When the book arrived and I tentatively read the first few poems, then hungrily read the many others contained in this book of 131 pages, I found Shaughnessy’s poems about motherhood deeper and more honest than described, and I let them settle in, speak for all the days I have felt speechless. That is exactly what poetry should do, of course. But I was swept up in so much more than a reflection of nurture and personal identity. The scope of this book is huge and this poet’s range of moods and perspectives is lovely and startling. Throughout New Andromeda, Shaughnessy enacts a conversation with her selves, with her child, but also with the cosmos, the unknowable out there which she imagines to be sentient, energetic, vigilant, and multi–as ambiguous as her own feelings on what it means to be here, now, in one place, but traversing worlds in her mind and subconscious.
Shaughnessy’s poetic voice is gentle and insistent and throughout this work she seems to be speaking not quite to, but rather toward what she desires from the world. She is indirect, almost capricious, yet she identifies her subjects with a precision that this reader finds astonishing and rare.
In keeping with her focus on worlds–and wisdom– beyond, Shaughnessy includes in this volume a section titled “Arcana,” which deals with several specific cards in the Rider Tarot Deck, conversing with ancient divining aspects and re-imagining their trajectories of meaning.
An excerpt from Card 17: The Star
I’m begging: please choose me to be your star./Wish on me. Love the oh-yes of my being dead.//enough to call it brightness. If I can’t be yours,/I am just a dark scar pulling the skin of the sky.
Have you read this book? Or others by Shaughnessy? Tell me your thoughts! Or tell me how much you wanna add this one to your collection. Either way, I’d love to hear your thoughts!