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Nicole Cooley

Nicole Cooley grew up in New Orleans, Louisiana. She received her BA from Brown University, her MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and her PhD from Emory University.

Her first book of poetry, Resurrection (Louisiana State University Press, 1996), was chosen by Cynthia Macdonald to receive the 1995 Walt Whitman Award. Her second book of poetry, The Afflicted Girls (Louisiana State University Press, 2004), about the Salem witch trials of 1692, was chosen as one of the best poetry books of the year by Library Journal. She is also the author of the novel Judy Garland, Ginger Love (Regan Books/Harper Collins, 1998). Her third book of poetry is Breach (Louisiana State University Press, 2009), a collection of poems about Hurricane Katrina and the Gulf Coast.

About Cooley, Cynthia Macdonald has said, "Nicole Cooley speaks in a voice unmistakably her own, a voice which need not demand attention because its quiet confidence is so compelling."

Her poems have appeared in many publications, including Poetry, Field, Ploughshares, Poetry Northwest, and The Nation. She was awarded a "Discovery"/The Nation Award for her poetry in 1994, and in 1996 she received a fiction grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Cooley has taught at Bucknell University. She is currently an associate professor of English and creative writing at Queens College—City University of New York, where she directs the MFA program in creative writing and literary translation. She lives outside of New York City with her husband and two daughters.

Selected Bibliography

Of Marriage (forthcoming, Alice James Books, 2018)
Girl after Girl after Girl (LSU Press, 2017)
Milk Dress (Alice James Books, 2010)
Breach (Louisiana State University Press, 2009)
The Afflicted Girls (Louisiana State University Press, 2004)
Resurrection (Louisiana State University Press, 1996)

Judy Garland, Ginger Love (Regan Books/Harper Collins, 1998)

Nicole Cooley. Photo credit: Victor Balaban.
Photo credit: Victor Balaban

By This Poet


Compendium of Lost Objects

Not the butterfly wing, the semiprecious stones,
          the shard of mirror,

not the cabinet of curiosities built with secret drawers
          to reveal and conceal its contents,

but the batture, the rope swing, the rusted barge
          sunk at the water’s edge

or the park’s Live Oaks you walked through
          with the forbidden man

or the pink-shuttered house on the streetcar line
          where you were married

or the green shock of land off I-10, road leading
          you away from home.

Not any of this
but a cot at the Superdome sunk in a dumpster

and lace valances from a Lakeview kitchen where water
          rose six feet high inside

and a refrigerator wrapped in duct tape lying
          in the dirt of a once-yard


and a Blue Roof and a house marked 0 and a

kitchen clock stopped at the time the hurricane hit.

Because, look, none of this fits
in a dark wood cabinet for safekeeping.

This is an installation
                    for dismantling
                              —never seen again.

Marriage: A Daybook

From the window the river rinses 
the dark. I twist 
the wedding beads around my neck. I’ve lost
my ring, silver and antique, bought from the night market
in the other world across
the ocean, color of dull lead,
color of the pan I scrub and burn
in the sink.


Catullus wrote, I hate and love, and he wasn’t talking about marriage.


Not talking about the blacked-out
window crossed with hurricane tape,
like a movie screen, a page redacted,
your hand erasing a blackboard
with an eraser’s soft compliant body.

Of Shock

Sudden blow   bundle of grain   a surprise   a heap of sheaves
          meaning trade

with the Dutch

A thick mass of your hair on the brush   in the pillow   in my

When an electric current passes through all or part of the body

How I wish to collide violently with myself

To throw troops into confusion by charging at them

The shock of cold water    the shock of wedding cake shoved in
          my mouth

Stuttering heartbeat felt by a hand on the chest wall

A knife in a light socket

Pile or stack of unthreshed corn

And what is myself without you

Push your hair into my mouth

Will you collide violently with me

Will you be a decision inflicted upon my body

A bundle    unthreshed and untethered

The shock of

Jar   impact   collapse

Flash of my white nightgown in our dark yard

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