Molly McCully Brown

The best poems, I think, are acts of discovery, and we never discover anything if we aren’t willing to wander toward what seems difficult, or unknown, or fraught, or tangled, the edges of the map where there might be dragons. And what’s waiting over the edge of the map is different not just for every person, but for the versions of yourself you are from one year, or day, or minute to the next.

New York Times Top Book of 2017

2016 Lexi Rudnitsky First Book Prize




Molly McCully Brown’s first book of poems, The Virginia State Colony for Epileptics and Feebleminded, is part history lesson, part séance, part ode to dread. It arrives as if clutching a spray of dead flowers. It is beautiful and devastating.
— Dwight Garner, The New York Times
Brown’s humbling and heartbreaking poems restore dignity to lives sacrificed in the name of perfection.
Publisher's Weekly, Starred Review
This is nothing less than a revelatory debut that reveals how to stitch something undeniably beautiful out of immense pain and solitude.
— Ada Limòn

Molly McCully Brown is the author of the poetry collection, The Virginia State Colony For Epileptics and Feebleminded (Persea Books, 2017), which won the 2016 Lexi Rudnitsky First Book Prize and was named a New York Times Critics’ Top Book of 2017.  Publisher’s Weekly, in a starred review, praised its “rich imagery,” and  the “humbling and heartbreaking” poems. In May 2020, Persea Books will publish her essay collection, Places I’ve Taken my Body and a book of poems, In The Field Between Us, co-authored with Susannah Nevison.

Brown has been the recipient of the Amy Lowell Poetry Traveling Scholarship, a United States Artists Fellowship, a Civitella Ranieri Foundation Fellowship and the Jeff Baskin Writers Fellowship from the Oxford American magazine. Her poems and essays have appeared in Tin House, Crazyhorse, The New York Times, Pleiades, Ninth Letter, Blackbird, and elsewhere.

As an accomplished writer of both poetry and essays, Brown was asked by The Adroit Journal about the difference between the two: “I think, for me, the difference between writing poetry and prose is less a question of wanting to express different ideas or experiences than a question of wanting to express ideas or experiences differently. That is to say, it’s more a matter of scope and angle then of content. A poem is like a pressure cooker, and I think I will always be most in love with the little worlds that their necessary compression and lyricism produces. A poem is somehow always both whole and fragmentary, and something about that feels like my first language. But I write essays when I want a little more breathing room, a little more space to unpack something, to provide context, to make digressions, and tell stories, and work my way from my usual essential uncertainty toward solid ground. There’s a lot of overlap between my prose and my poems, and I like to think they’re always to talking to each other. I’m so grateful to be able to write—and read—both.”

Raised in rural Virginia, she is a graduate of Bard College at Simon’s Rock, Stanford University, and the University of Mississippi, where she received her MFA. She lives in Gambier, Ohio and teaches at Kenyon College, where she is the Kenyon Review Fellow in Poetry.



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