On this day in 2012, Brittney Corrigan published 40 Weeks, a poetry chapbook which details the journey of pregnancy through short, vivid poems. 40 Weeks, like much of Brittney’s work, draws on the natural world for inspiration, and the poems which transport the reader through 40 weeks together with mother and child are rich in images of animals, the earth, and transformation.
Brittney Corrigan spent her childhood in Colorado before attending Reed College in Portland (OR). After graduating from Reed, Brittney stayed in Portland, where she has continued to live for the past three decades, working at her alma mater and publishing her written work.
Only a few months before 40 Weeks, Brittney released her first poetry collection, Navigation, in April of 2012. The narrative arc of the poems follow pieces of the history of Brittney’s own family, and the book provides a deeply intimate, contemplative look at family ties throughout generations.
Brittney infuses the work with a tone of hope which acts as a liferaft for the reader to cling to throughout the text.
Nine years later, in 2021, Brittney published Breaking, a collection of poems which acknowledge the unthinkable tragedies which have become a daily occurrence in modern society, such as terrorism, climate change, and gun violence. Though the book does set out to give an honest, unyielding portrayal of these realities, Brittney infuses the work with a tone of hope which acts as a liferaft for the reader to cling to throughout the text. This hope in the face of grim reality persists in many of Brittney’s pieces, including her 2021 poem “Vanishing”. In “Vanishing”, Brittney forefronts not only the effects of climate change, but the fight to stop it—a fight organized and maintained by children and young adults. Indeed, she juxtaposes the dying planet against the youth of those trying to save it. “Vanishing” won third place in the Treehouse Climate Action Poem Prize, which honors three poets for outstanding work on the topic of climate change.
In September of 2021, Brittney published Daughters. This collection of poetry provides its readers a fresh look at well-known figures from mythology and folklore. However, the collection does not revisit these stories through old eyes, but rather from the point of view of their daughters. In Daughters, Brittney works with the daughters of everyone from Medusa to the Mad Hatter. Each figure, though most likely daughterless in their original story, is now given a daughter in Brittney’s work, and those daughters are given an audience.
Brittney’s Daughters collection provides readers with a fresh look at well-known figures from mythology and folklore.
Two years ago, after the publication of Daughters, FF2 contributor Elisa Shoenberger sat down with Brittney to talk about her innovative work. When asked about where the idea for Daughters came from, Brittney told FF2 that, though she had been interested in writing persona poems (poems told from the point of view of others) in college, she had not explored them again until recently. As she attempted to write a poem about Bigfoot, Brittney found herself continuously doomed to writer’s block. Suddenly, the poet decided to give the famed cryptid a daughter, and told the story through her eyes instead. Brittney found that the poem flowed out of her freely then, and so Daughters began. “It’s a different way of bringing somebody into material than can otherwise be hard to talk about in a straight-on manner,” Brittney explained. “It gives folks another way to think about it.”
In Daughters, Brittney treats each daughter and parent with grace and humanity, an especially important task considering many of the stories she is telling are very real in essence if not always in situation. “Some of the subjects are worth looking at from a different angle,” Brittney revealed. “Whether it’s some of the things that maybe we all end up dealing with (like caring for an aging parent), or it’s something more political or cultural in nature (like “Active Shooter’s Daughter” or “Death Row Inmate’s Daughter”).
When asked what purpose Daughters served for today’s audience, Brittney replied, “It’s about rethinking stereotypes, or gender roles, or rethinking why certain familiar stories resonate with us. Maybe we should be questioning them.”
In Brittney’s newest work, Solastalgia, she returns to the theme of climate change and mass extinction. Published on July 10 (only last week), Solastalgia focuses on the species across the Earth that we have committed to die alongside us. Though the collection functions as a eulogy for all the biodiversity fading from the surface of the Earth, it is also a call to action, and a reminder that it is still not too late to save our home, our neighbors in it, and ourselves.
Though the poetry of Brittney Corrigan does often hold a bleak reminder about the dark realities of the modern world, it also always offers its readers a choice. They do not have to be consigned to their fate, but may choose to take her words to heart, and to save the beautiful, poetic world around them.
© Reese Alexander (7/20/23) FF2 Media
LEARN MORE/DO MORE
Order Solastalgia here.
Read Elisa Shoenberger’s interview with Brittney here.
Visit Brittney Corrigan’s website here.
Read “Vanishing” here.
Order Daughters here.
CREDITS & PERMISSIONS
Featured Photo/Middle Photo: Solastalgia book cover. Courtesy of Brittney Corrigan.
Bottom: Photo of Brittney Corrigan. Photo credit: Nina Johnson Photography. Used with permission of Brittney Corrigan.