The Edge of Known Things

The Edge of Known Things is a declaration of reverence, a communication from a nontraditional prophet attempting to both explore and adore the world. What some flinch away from is held up for examination in these poems, poked at with a stick, as the narrator seeks to understand the line between what is already understood and what is hidden. Returning often to the issue of memory—what we know, what we think we recall, what actually happened, what was dreamed, imagined or pretended—the poems rotate on deep images in an attempt to separate comprehension from mystery. –from the publisher’s catalog

The core poems in this collection were written during the time-outside-of-time experience provided by Jentel, an artist residency program in rural Wyoming. One of the fellow residents was working in a studio in sight of my cabin window, and every day she’d set paintings and collages out in the sun, against the building. Her work became an evolving part of the landscape for the month we were there together. One of those paintings serves as a cover image for this collection, which is so much about the mysterious interconnectedness that we know and then don’t know and then try to know again.  -Kelly


For Kelly Madigan, attention is a kind of prayer. “This is my work,” she tells us, “the watching.” Her poems are keenly observed, always focused on the particulars of the moment, and yet she acknowledges that to be human is to be haunted by “the intrusion / of recollection.” Madigan takes us to the edge between now & then, here & there, the recalled & the imagined, and invites us to walk that thin line – eyes open in wonder.

Grace Bauer, author of Retreats & Recognition and Beholding Eye

The Edge of Known Things is strewn with the names and bodies (some living, some dead or soon to be) of animals: possums, badgers, porcupine, mule deer, sea otters, leverets, coyotes, humans. Kelly Madigan is one of those rare poets who remember to attend first to the natural world, the mysteries of the quotidian beyond metropolitan and suburban America. She sees life and even beauty where others might notice only horror and decay: in the decomposing body of a badger: “white worms, / furiously climbing over one another.” When encountering a porcupine, most of us would see only its unforgiving armor, but Madigan reminds us that for an hour after birth even the porcupine is “benign and pliable.”

—Jeremy Halinen, author of What Other Choice