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Meghan O'Rourke (Author)


“The poems in Once illuminate and echo themes of loss and grief.”—Vanity Fair

The incandescent poems in Once, the second collection by an astonishing and formidable poet, explore loss, violence, and recovery. Facing a mother’s impending death, O’Rourke invokes a vanished childhood of “American houses, wet / kids moving through them in Spandex bathing suits; / inside, sandwiches with crusts cut off.” But the future hangs ominously over this summer paradise: not just the death of O’Rourke’s mother but the stark civic traumas faced by American citizens in the twenty-first century. “The future,” O’Rourke writes, “is all still / a dream, a night sweat to be swum off / in a wonderland of sand and bread.”

These poems are shadowed by illness, both civic and personal, and by the mysterious currents of grief. What emerges over the course of the volume is a meditation not only on a daughter’s relationship with her mother but also on a citizen’s to her nation. Throughout, Once examines the forces that shape war, divorce, and death, exploring personal culpability and charting uncertain new beginnings as the speakers seek to build homes in a shattered land and find whole selves amid broken, thwarted relationships.

from "Frontier"

     . . . At times,
     I felt sick, intoxicated
     by BPA and mercury.
     At other times I fasted and the stars
     stumbled clear from the vault.
     Up there, the universe stands around drunk.
     I hope the Lord is kind to us,
     for we engrave our every mistake . . .

Book Details

  • Paperback
  • March 2013
  • ISBN 978-0-393-34394-6
  • 5.5 × 8.3 in / 96 pages
  • Sales Territory: Worldwide including Canada, but excluding the British Commonwealth.

Endorsements & Reviews

“A lovely book of poems revealing the ephemeral nature of life in all its transparency . . . moving, tender, and real . . . the poems achieve their poignancy by way of honesty, nothing less.” — Rattle

“The only way out of a first-rate poem is its ending, so strong is its pull on the reader’s attention. Meghan O’Rourke writes this kind of poem again and again, releasing us only after her poems have fully cast their spell.” — Billy Collins

“Accessible yet sharp-edged . . . a moving exploration of loss and redemption.” — Publishers Weekly

“A fugue of death and resurrection with emotions like a heart-shaped trap.” — Washington Independent Review of Books

Also by Meghan O'Rourke All

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  2. Book CoverSun in Days: Poems


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