A review of

The Orchard

by Brigit Pegeen Kelly

Central question: In the twenty-first century, what’s more radical than theism?
Format: 88 pp., paperback; Size: 6" x 9"; Price: $14.95; Publisher: BOA Editions; Editor: Thom Ward; Print run: 2,500; Book design: Richard Foerster; Cover design: Daphne Poulin-Stofer; Typeface: Monotype Dante; Blurbed by: Stephen Dobyns; At readings, before her own poems, author will sometimes read: Yeats poems; Book is a finalist for: National Book Critics Circle Award; Author’s first book published as winner of: the 1987 Yale Series of Younger Poets prize; Years spent in writing: “at least nine”; Representative sentence: “Blessed is the field as it burns.”

Ever since the Cynical Century rendered the words God and love ironic until further notice, fewer contemporary poems test the faint boundaries separating Plato’s four madnesses—those of lovers, poets, religious ecstatics, and genuine psychotics. It’s just too much work to suspend the belief that the carnal, the aesthetic, the insane, and (especially) the divine are definitively distinct. William Blake, John Clare, and Christopher Smart were lunatic poets in their time (and maybe for all time), and didn’t bother to recognize those boundaries. Neither does Brigit Pegeen Kelly. I imagine she might have been tossed into Bedlam in the seventeenth century, but our understanding of exuberance is more nuanced now. (Today she resides in Illinois in relative safety.) The religious is still perceived as categorically distinct from the avant-garde to those reading by yesterday’s rules—but the result is that it’s now become radical to eschew qualities historically associated with the avant-garde. It’s radical to write nonironically about God. And so we have Kelly, drowning us in blood-tinged honey, radicalizing the love poem into the twenty-first century.

We hope you enjoy this excerpt.

To read the full piece, please visit our store to purchase a copy of the magazine.

—Sarah Manguso

Sarah Manguso is the author of The Captain Lands in Paradise (2002) and the forthcoming Siste Viator (2006). She teaches in the MFA program at the New School and lives in Brooklyn.

News on Facebook Photos on Instagram Stuff on Pinterest Announcements by RSS Sounds on Soundcloud Exclusives on Tumblr Updates on Twitter

Subscribe to our mailing list