About Joan Houlihan

Joan Houlihan is author of three collections, most recently, The Us (Tupelo Press, 2009). Her other two books are: Hand-Held Executions: Poems & Essays (2003) and The Mending Worm, winner of the 2005 Green Rose Award from New Issues Press. Her work has appeared in many journals, including Boston Review, Poetry, Harvard Review, Gettysburg Review, Harvard Divinity Bulletin, Black Warrior Review, Gulf Coast and Pleiades, among others, and has been anthologized in The Iowa Anthology of New American Poetries (University of Iowa Press, 2005) and The Book of Irish-American Poetry--Eighteenth Century to Present (University of Notre Dame Press, 2007). Her critical essays on contemporary poetry are archived online at Bostoncomment.com and she is a contributing editor for the Contemporary Poetry Review. Houlihan is founder of the Concord Poetry Center in Concord, Massachusetts and of the Colrain Poetry Manuscript Conference. She teaches in Lesley University's Low-Residency MFA in Creative Writing Program in Cambridge, Massachusetts.


Joan Houlihan Has written the following articles:


The “I” as Great Imposter: Confession, Monologue & Persona by Joan Houlihan

After his reading, the poet was approached by a tearful woman. She thanked him for the poem about his brother who had died. “My brother died recently,” she said, “and I sympathize with your feelings about your brother’s death.” “Oh, thanks,” the poet said, “but I don’t have a brother.” Why is this story disturbing?… continue reading...

Posted in November 2011: Poetry Criticism Conference, This MonthComments (2)

The CPR Editors: We Comment on the Comments

Recently, Andrew Feld posted the following comment on Joan Houlihan’s review of Christian Wiman’s latest book of poems:

Without addressing the substance of this review, it does seem problematic to me that it is written by a poet whose most recent book was given a hugely unfavorable review in the journal edited by Christian Wiman.… continue reading...

Posted in Editor, This MonthComments (7)

Short Cuts: Joan Houlihan on Ange Mlinko

Reviewed: Shoulder Season by Ange Mlinko. Coffee House Press, 2010. 81 pages.

If Shoulder Season were a town, it would be a deserted one. All evidence of life—buildings, boardwalks, beds and tables, monuments and blankets, pots of flowers, tools, cars and cribs—would be left intact, the people gone.… continue reading...

Posted in Reviews, This MonthComments (8)

The Well-Wrought Void: Joan Houlihan on Christian Wiman

Reviewed: every riven thing by Christian Wiman. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2010. 93 pages.

From its hardcover heft and granite-engraved dust jacket (remove the jacket and a black, bible-like, hardback cover is revealed), to its ivory paper stock and black section divider pages (complete with roman numerals blazoned in white), every riven thing announces the solemnity it aims to deliver and does: verses crafted as if with a chisel on stone, the weight of each line falling into the congregation of a hushed readership, organ sounding in the background—

There is no consolation in the thought of God,

he said, slamming another nail

in another house another havoc had half-taken.

continue reading...

Posted in ReviewsComments (23)

The Tell-Tale Line

Word Comix by Charlie Smith. Norton, 2009.

The History of Forgetting by Lawrence Raab. Penguin, 2009.

Blind Rain by Bruce Bond. Louisiana State University Press, 2008.continue reading...

Posted in EssaysComments (0)

In Memoriam: Reginald Shepherd (1963—2008)

Seeing the large, round, beaming black man coming toward me in the Casablanca restaurant in Harvard Square was a thrill—the hug was warm, fiercely close, long and so welcome.… continue reading...

Posted in ReviewsComments (0)

Pretty Pieces: Joan Houlihan on Nathaniel Bellows

Reviewed: Why Speak? by Nathaniel Bellows. W.W. Norton, 2007. 110 pages.

Why speak? A good question. But this debut collection provokes more specific questions: In what way are these poems not short, short, stories?… continue reading...

Posted in Featured, ReviewsComments (0)

Three Invitations to a Far Reading

As Reviewed By: Joan Houlihan

The To Sound by Eric Baus (Verse Press, 2004)
Hat on the Bed by Christine Scanlon (Barrow Street Press, 2005)
Figment by Rebecca Wolff (Norton, 2004)

The lag time between the appearance of an original, culturally significant art form and the culture’s ability to apprehend it has a long, well-documented history.… continue reading...

Posted in Featured, ReviewsComments (0)

What’s Your MFA Program Like?

An Unscientific Survey of MFA Graduates

As Interviewed By: Joan Houlihan

Brown University, University of Iowa, early to mid-90’s

1. What did you learn in your MFA studies that has advanced your development as a poet-and that you believe you couldn’t have gotten elsewhere?continue reading...

Posted in Featured, November 2004: the Business of PoetryComments (0)

No Poet Left Behind

As Reviewed By: Joan Houlihan

In the dark age of poetry, the pre-MFA era, when poets were untethered to a clear identity, often unhinged, and wandering loose in a society inimical to their aims, they were forced to brood in out-of-the-way cafés and corners, bringing forth from their painful rubbings against society’s strictures their secret image-pearls without benefit of community or support of other pearl-producers.… continue reading...

Posted in Featured, November 2004: the Business of PoetryComments (0)