poem index

About this poet

Brigit Pegeen Kelly was born in Palo Alto, California, in 1951.

Her first collection of poems, To The Place of Trumpets (1987), was selected by James Merrill for the Yale Series of Younger Poets. Song (BOA Editions), which followed in 1995, was the 1994 Lamont Poetry Selection of the Academy of American Poets. Her third collection, The Orchard (2004), was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry, the Los Angeles Times Book Award in Poetry, and the National Book Critics Circle Award in Poetry.

About her work, the poet Stephen Dobyns has said, "Brigit Pegeen Kelly is one of the very best poets now writing in the United States. In fact, there is no one who is any better. Not only are her poems brilliantly made, but they also give great pleasure. Rarely are those two qualities seen together in one poet."

Kelly was the 2008 recipient of the Academy of American Poets Fellowship. Her other honors include a "Discovery"/The Nation Award, the Cecil Hemley Award from the Poetry Society of America, the Theodore Roethke Prize from Poetry Northwest, and a Whiting Writers Award, as well as fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Illinois State Council on the Arts, and the New Jersey Council on the Arts.

Her work has also appeared in several volumes of the Pushcart Prize Anthology and several volumes of The Best American Poetry.

She has taught at the University of California at Irvine, Purdue University, and Warren Wilson College, as well as numerous writers' conferences in the United States and Ireland. In 2002 the University of Illinois awarded her both humanities and campus-wide awards for excellence in teaching. She is currently a professor of English at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.


Selected Bibliography

To The Place of Trumpets (Yale University Press, 1987)
Song (BOA Editions, 1995)
The Orchard (BOA Editions, 2004)
Poems: Song and the Orchard (Carcanet Press Ltd, 2008)

Rome

Brigit Pegeen Kelly

I saw once, in a rose garden, a remarkable statue of the Roman she-wolf and her twins, a reproduction of an ancient statue— not the famous bronze statue, so often copied, in which the blunt head swings forward toward the viewer like a sad battering ram, but an even older statue, of provenance less clear. The wolf had been cut out of black stone, made blacker by the garden’s shadows, and she stood in profile, her elegant head pointed toward something far beyond her, her long unmarked body and legs—narrower and more finely-boned than the body and legs of wolves as we know them—possessed, it seemed, of a great stillness, like the saturated stillness of the roses, but tightly-nerved, set, on the instant, to move. Under her belly, stood the boys, under her black breasts, not babes, as one might expect, but two lean boys, cut from the same shadowed stone as the wolf, but disproportionately small, grown boys no bigger than starlings, though still, like the wolf, oddly fine of face and limb, one boy pressing four fingers again one long breast, his other cupped beneath it to catch the falling milk, the second boy wrapping both arms around another breast, as if to carry it off, neither boy suckling, both instead turned toward you, dreamy, sweetly sly, as if to chide you for interrupting their feeding, or as if they were plotting a good trick… Beautiful, those boys among the roses. Beautiful, the black wolf. But it was the breasts that held the eye, a double row of four black breasts, eight smooth breasts, each narrowing to a strict point, piercing sharp, exactly the shape of the ivory tooth of the shark.

Copyright © 2009 by Brigit Pegeen Kelly. Originally published in Ploughshares. Used by permission of the author.

Brigit Pegeen Kelly

Brigit Pegeen Kelly

Brigit Pegeen Kelly was born in Palo Alto, California, in 1951. Her first

by this poet

poem
Listen: there was a goat's head hanging by ropes in a tree.
All night it hung there and sang. And those who heard it
Felt a hurt in their hearts and thought they were hearing
The song of a night bird. They sat up in their beds, and then
They lay back down again. In the night wind, the goat's head
Swayed back and
poem
God sends his tasks 
and one does 
them or not, but the sky 
delivers its gifts 
at the appointed 
times: With spit and sigh, 
with that improbable 
burst of flame, the balloon 
comes over
the cornfield, bringing 
another country 
with it, bringing 
from a long way off 
those colors that are at first 
the low
poem
Now I rest my head on the satyr's carved chest,
The hollow where the heart would have been, if sandstone
Had a heart, if a headless goat man could have a heart.
His neck rises to a dull point, points upward
To something long gone, elusive, and at his feet
The small flowers swarm, earnest and sweet, a clamor
Of