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books of poetry


Willow Room, Green Door New and Selected Poems book coverWillow Room, Green Door

Milkweed Editions, 2007

Jacket design by Christian Funfhausen

“A great soul is speaking in these poems, after long thought and meditation and inward dialogue.”
– Charles Baxter

Written over the course of three decades, this extraordinary collection of new and selected poems presents a body of work from Deborah Keenan that is expressive variously of love and rage, vulnerability and authority, distraction and focus, and perhaps above all, a sharply empathetic sense of observation. Deborah Keenan’s work balances holding on to what is dear with letting go of what she cannot change.

Recipient of the Minnesota Book Award for Poetry in 2008.

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Kingdoms book coverKingdoms

Laurel Poetry Collective, 2006

Book design and illustrations by Sylvia Ruud

Kingdoms is Deborah Keenan’s seventh collection of poetry. This book picks up some of the strands and themes present in her collection Good Heart (Milkweed Editions, 2003), though she also heads off in some new directions. The opening suite of poems, “The Bridge Poems,” are inspired by John Ashbery’s beautiful poem that is engraved into the Armijani bridge that crosses from The Walker Art Center’s sculpture garden to Loring Park in Minneapolis, Minnesota. There are poems of memory and transformation, family portraits, and a set of poems contemplating the fate of certain animals and birds in our world. Some of the poems in Kingdoms appear in Willow Room, Green Door. Keenan has said that many of the poems in Kingdoms would not exist if she hadn’t been a member of the Laurel Poetry Collective, where she was continually inspired to create new work by her colleagues in that group.

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Good Heart book coverGood Heart

Milkweed Editions, 2003

Cover sculpture by Jennifer S. Holland

“Litany-like, the poems use fragments, ambiguous words, unusual punctuation, unexpected linebreaks, unexpected breaks within lines, and several voices. The result is a surreal quality reminiscent of the paintings of Marc Chagall. The angle of vision changes, with the poet dancing on rooftops, or flying, while Keenan notices everything–from her mother’s “green taffeta dress/Drifts, no plummets, no, falls”; to the baby “turned to an open window/Full of golden wind.”… Winner of the American Book Award, Keenan wrote these poems the year her mother died and her first grandchild was born. Perhaps this explains the book’s preoccupation with two worlds, the physical and the spiritual, with poet and poetry as the connectors between them.”

— Diane Sharper,  The Philadelphia Inquirer


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Happiness book coverHappiness

Coffee House Press, 1995

Book cover and art by Leslie Ross

“Keenan posits maternal love as an act of rebellion against universal rancor, though most of her poems are steeped in unabashed, passionate doubt. These are, quite simply, poems about love (while not exactly love poems) and the many forms it takes. They are finally NOT about happiness. Best of all, they are smart enough to know the difference.”

— Carol Muske Dukes, The Nation


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The Only Window That CountsThe Only Window That Counts

New Rivers Press, 1985

Cover photograph and photographs by Timothy Francisco.

“Deborah Keenan’s The Only Window That Counts is a book of our staying, our abiding, our settling and making do.  Far from being domesticated and housebroken songs of caged birds, Keenan’s voices in these poems are the songs of an imagination residing(taking again a considered stand)within a dramatic location… The poems in The Only Window That Counts are always highly associational and create that vortex, that pattern of integrity, where anything might and often does happen.”

— Liam Rector, Poetry Society of America

“It is difficult to write objective, aloof criticism about Deborah Keenan’s poetry. Her poems are meant to be read the way one views a painting: an absorption of color and image that evokes emotions unique to the reader/observer. “

— Meg Spilleth, University of Minnesota Daily


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One Angel ThenOne Angel Then

Midnight Paper Sales Press, 1981

Wood-block prints and Letter Press printing by Gaylord Schanilec

This book was designed and hand printed by Gaylord Schanilec in an edition of 280, of which 60 were numbered and signed by the author and artist. This limited edition sold out quickly, though sometimes, over the years, people have found the book and repurchased it.

Please visit Gaylord’s beautiful website to see his extraordinary work, which receives international attention.

 Click thumbnail to read poem “Angel Fish New Life” "Angel Fish New Life" inside spread

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Household Wounds book coverHousehold Wounds

New Rivers Press, 1981

Drawings by Gaylord Schanilec

This collection was the very first in the series Minnesota Voices.

“Household Wounds, by Deborah Keenan, contains a large number of poems of extraordinary power.  These poems rely surprisingly little upon the devices of metaphor.  Rather, their tone is precise:  the force stemming from the taut directness of the voice.  What the voice speaks of are daily pains, difficult love, the bonds of children and memory, survival.  There are no pastorals, no sentimental pieces…Without question Household Wounds is a remarkable book, particularly as a first collection of the poet’s work…Midnight Paper Sales has recently published a beautiful chapbook entitled One Angel Then which contains five additional poems by Keenan…In both Household Wounds and One Angel Then, the artwork by Gaylord Schanilec is exceptional.”

— Lawrence Sutin, Minnesota Monthly

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