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Kathleen Peirce


Kathleen Peirce grew up in Rock Island, Illinois, the fifth of five daughters of Louise and Wally Peirce. A graduate of the

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University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop in 1988, she’s the author of Lion’s Paw (Miami University Press 2021), Vault (New Michigan Press 2017), The Ardors (Ausable/Copper Canyon Press 2004), The Oval Hour (University of Iowa Press 1999), Divided Touch, Divided Color (Windhover Press 1995), and Mercy (University of Pittsburgh Press 1991). Among her awards are The AWP Award, The Iowa Prize, and The William Carlos Williams Award. Her books have been finalists for the LA Times Book Award and The Four Quartets Prize. Her work has been awarded fellowships from The National Endowment for the Arts, the Whiting Foundation, and the Guggenheim Foundation. Previously teaching at Warren Wilson College and The Iowa Writers’ Workshop, she's currently retired from teaching poetry in the MFA program at Texas State University.


Poetry Collections

At the heart of this collection is the question: "What does a resident of earth deserve?" Waiting seems to be both punishment and possibility in these epistemological inquiries, where "feral roses" are "tangled, voluptuous, liturgical, with flower heads like mouths open or opening past words." These poems test "the extent of vertigo" and vibrate with an eros that swerves past, or beyond, the mind: "Why not feel touched," the speaker asks, "stepped away from thought"? Threaded together by language-play, an exquisite music, and humor -- "You look, like a dog in a suit, at once young and old for your age" -- the philosophical depths here buoy and transfix a reader open to Peirce's extraordinary apprehensions, her elegies, her "waiting for the next astonishment".

- Catherine Barnett 

2021 Miami University Press

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"Everyone who’s ever read Rilke’s 'Archaic Torso of Apollo' knows the depth, the loss, the bewilderment, the vision and discovery one has when encountering the work of art that’s truly talismanic. This encounter lies at the heart of Kathleen Peirce’s poetics. This poetics is aware that an encounter with a piece of art, (and, perhaps, language, too) is like entering a soul itself. She might be looking at a watercolor or at a statuette, or a gilded egg—but what she sees is the mystery of time. Her eye, examining an object, travels back in time, through time, at time."

- Ilya Kaminsky 

2017 New Michigan Press

“Startling in their mystery, these poems are entirely original; abstract and passionate, sensual and otherworldly, trance-like and exciting . . . . The Ardors is a book that takes us beyond ourselves, beyond our workaday bodies and souls.”

- Jean Valentine

2004 Ausable / Copper Canyon Press

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There is an overtone of Christina Rossetti in these poems, partly discernible in the hindered devotions of the ‘Confessions’ series and partly in the unresisted sensuality of the poems about (largely) women. ’Two Sisters’ is the most disconcerting poem in this line since Goblin Market. Peirce has emotional authority and intellectual passion — an inevitable triumph.    

- Richard Howard

1999 University of Iowa Press

Divided Touch, Divided Color

Designed in 1995 by Kim Merker of Windhover Press, which he founded in 1968 as the first University fine press; it produced limited editions that were themselves works of art.

Woodcuts by Peggy Fitzgerald.

1995 Windhover Press

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The clarity and common sense of these poems must be valued, but the very originality of their phrasing is what makes this volume conspicuous among any number of first books published in recent years.

- Norman Dubie

1991 University of Pittsburgh Press

“Passing through innocence, I came either to experience

or guilt, or they came to me, displacing innocence”

The Powder Books

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Lion's Paw

The Ardors

Divided Touch, Divided Color


The Oval Hour


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