The Octopus Museum: Poems

We rated this book:


Brenda Shaughnessy’s fifth book of poems, The Octopus Museum is a beautifully constructed piece of literature. The jacket photograph by Kim Keever is a swirl of oranges, blues, and greens that look like the entrance to another world which is, indeed, what happens as you begin reading the poems. Unfortunately, the total beauty of the cover isn’t sustained within the book’s pages.

Arranged into sections as though the poems are exhibits in a museum, as a reader you are both witnessing the poet’s view of the world through these set pieces while also reading a frightening commentary on the terrible and tangible. The poems are riddled with unhappiness. In one, a woman’s legs are bitten by spiders, in another a female octopus makes a bad deal with a starfish, and in yet another, a man writes a letter lamenting the toll guns took on the world before the octopodes took over. It’s a dark world in Shaughnessy’s imagined future, and the poems reflect that.

The struggle is that there are singular beautiful moments and truly stunning individual lines in some pieces, and it is hard to call this book a collection of poems. The structures of many would be considered prose poems, but the language lacks a certain quality that pushes it beyond strict prose.

For fans of Shaughnessy, her wit and directness will certainly satisfy. For those newly discovering her, this may be a rough place to start.

Reviewed By:

Author Brenda Shaughnessy
Star Count 3/5
Format Hard
Page Count 96 pages
Publisher Knopf
Publish Date 19-Mar-2019
ISBN 9780525655657
Amazon Buy this Book
Issue July 2019
Category Poetry & Short Stories


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