Published on Academy of American Poets (

Peacock Island

From the island
he saw the castle
and from the castle
he saw the island.
Some people live
this way—wife/
But this story isn’t
the one I’m telling.
From the island
he saw the castle
and that made him
distant from power
and from the castle
he saw the island
and that made him distant
from imagining
what power can do.
The story I’m telling is
the war coming.
How can you go from
island to castle to island
to castle and not give
birth to a war? No.
I still can’t explain it.


Copyright © 2018 by Jennifer Kronovet. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 23, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“Peacock Island is a real place: sixty-seven hectares in the middle of the Havel River, just off the western edge of Berlin—after a thirty-second ferry ride you’re there and can hear the peacocks screaming to each other. The island was once given to an alchemist who discovered how to make ruby glass but was shipped off when his lab burned down, and one hundred years later, the island was given to the king’s mistress for her pleasure, and she was shipped off when the king died. The castle, the fountain, and the temple were all designed to look like ruins—the fantasy of ruin—and yet were untouched when World War II's bombs fell. When I first went to Peacock Island I thought, if I can understand this place, I can understand all of the real and imagined history of Western civilization. This place of artifice and hubris snagged me, and since then all my poems have been about Peacock Island.”
—Jennifer Kronovet


Jennifer Kronovet

Jennifer Kronovet was born and raised in New York City. She received an MFA in creative writing from Washington University in St. Louis and an MA in applied linguistics from Columbia University Teachers College. She is the author of The Wug Test (Ecco, 2016), which was selected by Eliza Griswold for the National Poetry Series, and Awayward (BOA Editions, 2007), which was selected by Jean Valentine as the winner of the A. Poulin Jr. Poetry Prize. She also cotranslated Celia Dropkin’s The Acrobat (Tebot Bach, 2014) from the Yiddish and is a cofounder of Circumference, a journal of poetry in translation. Kronovet, who previously served as the writer-in-residence at Washington University in St. Louis, currently lives in Berlin.

Date Published: 2018-11-23

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