Poetry by Kelly Forsythe

August 7, 2018 • 6 x 9 • 72 pages • 978-1-56689-517-0

Girlhood, selfhood, and the fragility of safety in tender poems that examine and then mourn micro- and macroscopic violence.

From “Periphery”:

Set back, growing dim,
it pulsed: a gray hour
of oxygen—could it be

mid-winter within
him? Shaking
out a muscle: we

are somewhere
averting. We are
backwards or in
a trance or in a
dioxide stargazing.

About the Author

Kelly Forsythe’s work has been published in Black Warrior Review, The Literary Review, The Minnesota Review, and Columbia Poetry Review, among others. Forsythe was the director of publicity for Copper Canyon Press for over half a decade and is the founder of Phantom Books, an online literary journal and chapbook press. She teaches creative writing in the Jiménez-Porter Writers House at the University of Maryland and works at National Geographic.

Thanks to a 2013 ADA Access Improvement Grant administered by VSA Minnesota for the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council, this title is also formatted for screen readers which make text accessible to the blind and visually impaired. To purchase this title for use with a screen reader please call (612) 338-0125 or email us at info@coffeehousepress.org.


Publishers Weekly Best Summer Books of 2018
Nylon “46 Great Books To Read This Summer”

“Forsythe’s moving catalogue of a horrific event becomes a diagram of senselessness where minutiae take on a stark and eerie resonance when read beside today’s headlines.” —Publishers Weekly

“Innocence and violence are the poles of this debut collection about the Columbine school shooting, where even lipstick tubes call to mind gun barrels and where children, like flowers, ‘are beautiful, then die.’” —The New York Times

“Kelly Forsythe takes us through the Columbine massacre from the perspective of a teenage girl forced to reckon, for the first time, with brutality and helplessness. Laced with lyricism, anguished searching, and a heartbreaking delicacy of perception, Perennial is a book born of devastation that lifts us into new forms of empathy. The poems glow with life.” —Joanna Klink

“This incredible, lyrical, profoundly moving book of poems revolves around the Columbine High School massacre, and delineates the experience of living before and after such extreme tragedy.” —Nylon

Perennial adeptly captures the complexity of the subject and reminds readers how difficult it is to understand and overcome such events, even decades later.” —Washington Post

“The columbine, a perennial, is said to look like an eagle’s claw or five doves huddled together. Both are apt definitions fitting this fine debut collection.” —Library Journal

Perennial shifts the conversation about school shootings from policy to people.” —CNN

“[A] ‘coming-of-age’ story about what it means when feeling safe has drastically changed.” —PBS

“Forsythe delivers precise lines of pain . . . but what also appears is the dizzying sense that even in these banal spaces, humanity remains.” —The Millions

Perennial feels like a reckoning with our collective grief that Columbine ever happened, and that it has happened again and again. . .” —Nylon

“The sad fact is violence endures; it is perennial. But so too are the girls who have to face it, who have to live through it, who have to find ways to behave that will not make them targets of this rage. Forsythe’s book offers us the chance to be devastated into awareness and awareness into action, if only we will listen and let it go to seed.” —American Micro Reviews

"Perennial is intimate and unflinching in its capacity to pull the reader into these moments—beautiful and frightening in its emotional unfurling. It is not a light read, but it is a vital one.” —Arkansas International

“Forsythe’s poems . . . construct the possibility of a new narrative while keeping the truth intact.” —fields magazine

Perennial hauntingly explores a side of the Columbine shooting that is not commonly seen: the view of a young girl who has had to live her life as a non-fatality, a survivor but still a victim.” —Call Me [Brackets]

“At the center of Kelly Forsythe’s debut collection is a pulsating violence that beats in our ears, a threat at the periphery of our vision that we keep turning and turning to see. ‘We were in the midst of it all the time,’ declares one poem—and to read Perennial is to be ever in the midst, held captive, always moving within a world of impermeable borders. These poems reverberate against their walls—the walls of a classroom, of a school, the seemingly closed system of adolescence, the boundaries of the body itself—creating an atmosphere of unnerving intimacy. And what exists beyond these barriers? Perennial tests its fences, peers through the cracks to catch a glimmer of the unknown: a light that might burst through to free us, or consume us.” —Camille Rankine

“What happens after the flowers? After carnage and grief? Who gets to become themselves and who doesn’t? This book splits the world in two—a mirror before and after violence, a fearlessness revealing the lines and paths of fear, a split screen of innocence and devastation. Kelly Forsythe is a true word-witch, casting spells to pierce their easy surfaces, to let multiple stranger, brilliant meanings leak out. She sees tiny key details as clues to the bigger mysteries and lets a generous beauty take root in a ground of fear and chaos which ‘suddenly knew / the underside of infinity.’ In the rare poetries of compassion and complexity—Forché, Glück, Nye— Forsythe is next, now, with a deep and supple art that makes more than sense, more than peace, more than a reckoning. It makes a way forward, heart refilled again and again with blood and life and blossoming future. If we are going to keep going, we need this devastating and gorgeous book.” —Brenda Shaughnessy