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The Orchard (American Poets Continuum) Paperback – April 1, 2004


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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Brigit Pegeen Kelly has published three books of poetry, To the Place of Trumpets (Yale University Press, 1988), selected by James Merrill for the Yale Series of Younger Poets Prize, Song (BOA Editions, Ltd., 1995), winner of the Lamont Poetry Prize from the Academy of American Poets and, The Orchard a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Los Angeles Times Book Award, and the Pulitzer Prize. Additional awards and honors include a "Discovery" / The Nation award, the Witter Bynner Prize from the Academy of Arts and Letters, the Cecil Hemley Award from the Poetry Society of America, and fellowships from the Whiting Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, and the Illinois Arts Council. In 2008, Brigit Pegeen Kelly was awarded the 2008 Academy Fellowship from the Academy of American Poets. Her work has appeared in many anthologies and literary magazines, including The Nation, The Yale Review, New England Review, Poetry, The Antioch Review, The Massachusetts Review, The Southern Review, five Pushcart Prize volumes, and six volumes of The Best American Poetry. Kelly, who has taught for many years primarily at the University of Illinois, has also taught at the University of California at Irvine, Purdue University, Warren Wilson College, and numerous writers' conferences. In 2002 the University of Illinois awarded her both humanities and campus-wide awards for excellence in teaching.
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Product Details

  • Series: American Poets Continuum (Book 82)
  • Paperback: 88 pages
  • Publisher: BOA Editions Ltd. (April 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1929918488
  • ISBN-13: 978-1929918485
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #749,546 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 27, 2004
Format: Paperback
A few decades back, when Jon Anderson wrote that "the secret of poetry is cruelty," he must have had something like Brigit Kelly's poems in mind. Kelly's third book, The Orchard, continues her fascination with the suffering and cruelty that lies somewhere between the animal and the human, obsessing over pain directly linked with physical beauty.
It's important to note that the speaker in Kelly's poem is a witness to suffering rather than an instigator. She seeks to comfort and justify those in pain, the human and animal, the living and the dead, to name them with poetical power, as she does a diseased dog in "The Wolf," linking that dog to wolf and then wolf to myth, making "of her something / Better than she could make of herself". This poem is one of the finest in a collection full of fine poems.
And Kelly likes her descriptions steeped in beauty and terror. In the last line of "Elegy" she writes, "Brighter than a bed of lilies struck by snow." That violent "struck" means everything to Kelly's poetics. It's subtle, hidden between the blinding purity of the lilies and the snow.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Jeffrey Lickson on May 12, 2010
Format: Paperback
Reading The Orchard by Brigit Pegeen Kelly is an indescribable experience, like listening to Rachmaninoff's Third Symphony or a Bach fugue. Stunned by hypnotic images, the reader is grabbed by the throat and ripped into a labyrinth of numinous voices, quickening classical statues, dripping mist, rotting fruit, flapping wings and a pulsing sense of the presence of music and danger. Kelly's poetry is breathtaking in its language and force. Reading one poem creates an insatiable thirst to read everything this remarkable poet has written.
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By Laura Romeyn on September 12, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I feel absolutely haunted having finished this book. "Blacklegs," for me, was the most remarkable poem, but each page really offers up its own unexpected world, each poem every bit as startling as the next. What Kelly's words accomplish so masterfully is the way they direct my emotional responses so specifically. I know how I'm supposed to FEEL at the last line of each poem, her language is so precise and evocative, unearthly. Truly the most remarkable book of poetry I have ever read.
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By Ryan Antelope on March 26, 2010
Format: Paperback
I just love the place she has created on earth where her poems can happen.
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12 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Robert Beveridge HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on July 7, 2005
Format: Paperback
Brigit Pegeen Kelly, The Orchard (BOA Editions, 2004)

The Orchard is the kind of book one doesn't see too often these days; it's poetry that's "academic" in the trust sense of the word, thick almost to the point of unreadability with diction that's just this side of archaic, layer upon layer of symbolism, and all that sort of thing that makes high school and college English professors foam at the mouth. There is little doubt in my mind, having read this book, that Kelly is on the fast track to canonization; this is substantiated by The Orchard having been nominated for a National Book Critics' Circle Award this year. Because of all this, there's the temptation to compare her to poets already in the canon (there's certainly a good argument to be made for comparing her style and diction, and probably substance, to that of, say, Pound, or to a lesser extent Eliot). I'll try to avoid it, given the length limits I'm stuck with, but those with more room than I have might want to take a crack at it.

The basic problem with the canon is that, while it's often beautiful work (as is the case here), it sometimes lets the simple factors of readability and accessibility fall by the wayside in order to be deep. The best poets who flirt with canonization-- Li-Young Lee is the one who springs immediately to mind-- have the depth and flavor, but also have that surface layer that says "here's a poem; if all you get out of it is what you see on the surface, that's okay." Kelly's work has a marked absence of this trait; the language itself almost seems to be pointing the reader toward the depths, saying "in order to get anything out of this poem, you'd best come armed with a knowledge of mythology, and an OED would probably help as well.
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