Brenda Shaughnessy was born in Okinawa, Japan, in 1970 and grew up in Southern California. She received her B.A. in literature and women's studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and she earned an M.F.A. at Columbia University.
She is the author of Human Dark with Sugar (Copper Canyon Press, 2008), winner of the James Laughlin Award from the Academy of American Poets, and Interior with Sudden Joy (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1999), which was nominated for the PEN/Joyce Osterweil Award for Poetry, a Lambda Literary Award, and the Norma Farber First Book Award. Her poems have appeared in Best American Poetry, Bomb, Boston Review, Conjunctions, McSweeney’s, The New Yorker, The Paris Review, The Yale Review, and elsewhere.
About her work, the poet Richard Howard writes: "The resonance of Shaughnessy's poems is that of someone speaking out of an ecstasy and into an ecstasy, momentarily pausing to let us in on the fun, the pain."
Shaughnessy is the recipient of a Bunting Fellowship at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University, and a Japan/U.S. Friendship Commission Artist Fellowship. She is the poetry editor at Tin House magazine and currently teaches creative writing at Princeton University and Eugene Lang College at the New School.