Parenthood with its complexities and consequences is a major theme of Jennifer O’Grady’s daring, anticipated second book of poetry, Exclusions & Limitations. Inventive and exquisitely crafted, these poems mine marriage, infertility, and motherhood, along with politics, art, religion and the domestic and natural worlds to probe the nature and meaning of responsibility and the many aspects of love. In Exclusions & Limitations, appearance is often deceptive; what hovers between the lines is often as important as what’s said, combining internal voices and text fragments in sonorous collages that comment on each other in unexpected ways. Intelligent, compassionate, always deeply moving, Exclusions & Limitations questions how we live with, and without, each other.
… between O’Grady’s assured and subtly measured lines lurk dangers and “damages that may not be covered.” … [She] views seemingly benign moments … with a keen maternal prescience that exposes them as fraught with foreboding. Moving edgily from catastrophe to the mysteriousness of love itself, O’Grady shows how to bear the unknowable.…
—Jeanne Marie Beaumont
… conjures the sort of dream world that follows you after you’re awake.… numinous, recounting desire and its cost from some inevitable Purgatory.… carefully wrought sonic texture, the range of styles from prose poem to lyric, narrative to alliterative abecedarian induces an orchestral intensity. This is a book that refuses to go away.…
Always lyrically animated, the clear often-elegiac note struck in these poems signals O’Grady’s wakefulness to the shifting light and shade of things. Here is a natural world brought to attention by the unsparing intensity of the poet’s gaze. Whether listing the colors of cattle at pasture (“rust, tobacco and / ashen”), or observing goldfish in a pond (“quick bits/ of firelight, orange rind, / shrapnel, tiny meteors with / nowhere to fall”), O’Grady’s exact, exacting language is always up to her descriptive, meditative task.… sharp-sighted, probing and pondering the ordinary adventure of life and its extraordinary hunger for what is to be loved, what is to survive.… —Eamon Grennan
… there are no limitations to this poet’s imagination.… It is in the study of childhood aptitude for detachment. It is in the storm-torn pear tree, the alphabet, the garden in which she admires wildflowers with her mother.… the most admirable poetic dimensionality and ingenuity—breadth and depth, intellectual edge—with grace and levity to boot.… wonderment and horror entangling with wit and curiosity.… a grand poetic performance of a bright mind and marvelous, fine-tuned heart.
—Elizabeth Cohen, Associate Professor of English at SUNY Plattsburgh
and author of Bird Light, The Family on Beartown Road, and other books