(Creature Sounds Fade)
This collection is, from the get-go, parenthetical, by which I mean layered horizontally in voice, architecture, inflection, and sound—the sound of the ever-fading world, and the soundtrack of the human interior. The tone is a shimmering dread with a backbeat of wonder, and the reigning approach to the line is the caesura—gaps, silences, and redactions. Everything teeters, transmogrifies; even the speaker’s dress shifts from “delicate bushbean pink” to “tufted crest titmouse gray” and then into something like song: “My dress my dress/o mess of shabbiness…” Shanna Compton has managed to write poems that are utterly of the moment—“Oh vomitous intimacy!”— while harkening back to archetype, to the timeless strangeness of the natural world, imagination’s source: “the river/ the gold-green blur of trees,” steadying, sweet, a “clear rivulet of water across the sandy waste.” This collection met my thirst right where it lives. “Fellow navigators,” I urge you to read it. —Diane Seuss
Poems in (CREATURE SOUNDS FADE) slip through cracks into other worlds a little unfamiliar and they insist on the urgency of making what is unfamiliar familiar. You have to see how these poems sound in your head. As private and public exchange places with one another, we’re let in to Compton’s poems, we’re invited to provide the variable. —Dara Wier
Shanna Compton’s poems turn corners you wouldn’t know were there if she weren’t listening for them, locating them in order to give them away, listening to what’s there and what’s left out. Her astonishing feel, sound by sound, for shapeliness sprung from the edges and detail of lived experience, and her intense commitment to deep listening, are antidotes for and tough pushback against the constant threat of total immobility we all face every day. —Anselm Berrigan
In a collection that is two parts feral eco-poetry, and one part stingingly personal reflection, Shanna Compton uses re-engineered punctuation as the soundtrack to her crucial work. Here, the woods and the animals do not merely appear as backdrops and extras, they are creatures in coexistence with the speaker, sometimes mingling until the narrative voice and the wilderness are indistinguishable from one another. …In Compton’s work, there is a clear understanding that the land, and those who live upon it, must learn to coexist in some way. Compton doesn’t claim to have the answers – her speaker(s) are often fractured and flawed even while they are earnest and moving. Readers of Camille Dungy, or Mary Oliver fans looking for something with teeth, will find this collection vital to their bookshelves. While Compton seems to implore readers to take action in some places, there is a sense of hope to be found and nurtured in these pages. —Shannon Wolf, Bridge Eight
Her poems move across the page at quite a speed, from a human interior to an exterior and engagement with landscape and eco-concerns, enough that the two seeming-poles become nearly indistinguishable. ‘The picked edges of the birches’ / bitter bark,’ she writes, to open the poem ‘Paper Trees,’ ‘Red-gold admixture / of mind a fleeting logical thread / she keeps tangling around / her spindle body [.]’ Compton plays with familiar landscapes and phrases fragmented and re-formed, twisting expectations and direction, constantly darting between lines, between trees, in an out of view in simultaneous outreach and retreat. Compton writes through a voice akin to something wild, something feral, one hesitant to step to far towards an encroaching array of human activity. ‘My love I am a tangled I am choked & salted,’ she writes, to open ‘Shorn Fur,’ ‘My love I am feeling the itch of the buds soon to burst from my skin [.]’ —rob mclennan
“There is nothing quite like this exuberance, on the edge of paraphrasable sense but not over it, among Compton’s contemporaries, though many of them have tried. Compton takes it upon herself to make everything interesting, to make daily life spark and fizz.” —Stephanie Burt, Yale Review
“Shanna Compton captures the weird and dazzling collision between the suffering and the awe of contemporary existence. At once disturbing and triumphant, the poems in Brink work together to create an honest, unexpected, and fascinating lyrical exhibition of the complicated human heart.” —Ada Limón
“Compton does as much as anyone yet to represent the way her youngish people live now, the alterable, friable, quizzical, digital, comical voice of a plugged-in, sexed-out, and reluctantly but unmistakably political cohort.” —Publishers Weekly
“In Brink, Compton flirts with disaster on every page, constantly teetering on the edge of complete chaos and devastation. Compton can mingle the otherworldly alongside the common stings of this world. These stoically stated observations feel so precise and accurate: they are like the surgeon’s tiny scalpel peeling back layers of the complicated and revolting human heart. These poems will teach you how to chuckle at devastation as much as they will teach you to fear it.” —Anne Champion, Pank Magazine
For Girls & Other Poems
“This technique always has exactly a feminist cunning, and always a feminist heritage (the Baronness, Acker). We steal shit. It’s not okay. This is a book made from elegant defiance.” —Anne Boyer
“There were a lot a terrific books in 2007, but this was by far one of my FAVORITES! Incorporating the antique book (and antique ideas) for girls. If you don’t buy this book you can only IMAGINE what I mean!” —CAConrad
“Though Shanna Compton’s second full-length book will probably get noticed first for its quasi-gender studies focus, the ironic tone and muscularly discursive lines of For Girls (& Others) mark it as first-rate poetry first, a lesson in articulating individual identity in a public sphere. Compton owns her project—a kind of contemporary primer for girls that, in revealing how far we’ve come, indicates we haven’t strayed far enough from the ideas of the 19th-century handbook that serves as impetus for some of the poems. Luckily, we have Compton’s voice to help guide us. Lingustic virtuosity is a solid draw as well. Those who’ve read Compton’s first collection, Down Spooky, already know her to be adept at torquing language in a way that reveals not simply multiple meanings, but multiple registers. Throughout, Compton uses syntax and lineation to provide some of the punch. Simultaneously reverent and irreverent, For Girls (& Others) is a complex work on identity and the forces we all work against to assert it.” —Rain Taxi
“Down Spooky is as enchanting as a blue lake on a hot summer day that you never want to get out of once you’ve plunged in. The book brims with liveliness, and love, and wit. Shanna Compton has an uncanny gift of seizing moments and situations with sure aplomb, and even when she is reveling in word play—in purely verbal speculation—her words lead to insight. Readers can only be grateful for such beneficent interventions.” —Harry Mathews
“The first line of her bio says it all, really: ‘Born and raised in Texas, Shanna Compton has lived in Brooklyn, New York since 1995.’ She combines West and East, bringing an acute sense of place (places, rather: the Duane Reade and the BQE; St. John Parish in Louisiana and a high school band parade in Texas) reminiscent of C.D. Wright. But like Wright (or Caroline Knox, who contributes a blurb to the back cover), Compton’s truest allegiance is to words and their uncanny ability to manufacture a community of meanings out of the barest possible contexts. The speed of her associations produces a kind of delirious whiplash in the reader.” —Joshua Corey
“Vigorous, winningly smart and consistently hip, Compton’s debut follows a horde of quick-witted alter egos through a decidedly American, youth-oriented landscape whose sites include high schools, zoos, the football fields of Texas, the kudzu-damaged forests of the rural South, the skyscrapers of post-9/11 Manhattan and the rock and roll lounges of innermost Brooklyn. Compton, who just ended a long stint as associate editor at Soft Skull Press, portrays the pleasures and fears of her generation with ‘that hookymaking/convincibility of mine,’ deploying a quick-change lingo of ‘Slashy Speakers, Nervy Endings’ in poems that veer in and out of narrative sense: she shows off a language equal parts angst and speed, with a soft spot for ‘the longing of the never-ringing telephones’ and repeated returns to runaway teens. Compton shows a particular talent for love poems à la C.D. Wright and D.A. Powell: ‘Your mouth is its own environment a canyon/ with trees and snow,’ an augmented sonnet proclaims; ‘lips that have smiled are as limitless as leaves.’ —Publishers Weekly
Midwinter Day: A Constellation, edited by Becca Klaver (Black Lawrence Press, 2021)
Chapbooks, Broadsides & Ephemera
An Urban Consolation for Gotham (Center for Book Arts, 2013). Letterpress broadside printed by Ana Paula Cordeiro, 100 copies, out of print.
A Proposed Explanation for a Phenomenon (Columbia College Chicago; Center for Book, Paper & Print; 2013). Letterpress broadside designed by Clifton Meador, printed by April Sheridan. Limited edition, out of print.
The Woman from the Public (2006). Letterpress broadside printed by the author at the Center for Book Arts, NYC. Unnumbered limited edition. Available here.
Rare Vagrants (Dusie, 2010). Wall-hanging accordion book, 40 copies, out of print. PDF available in Dusie: Spring 2010.
Scurrilous Toy (Dusie, 2007). Saddle-stapled, 100 copies, out of print. PDF available in Dusie: Summer 2007.
Closest Major Town (Half Empty-Half Full, 2006). Saddle-stapled, 50 copies, out of print.
Big Confetti with Shafer Hall (Half Empty-Half Full, 2004). Saddle-stapled, 300 copies, out of print.
Down Spooky (Half Empty-Half Full, 2004). Saddle-stapled, 300 copies, out of print.
Opal Memos Nonchalant with Shannon Holman & Jeffrey Salane (Half Empty-Half Full, 2002). Saddle-stapled, 150 copies, out of print.