my maiden cowboy names

Victoria Brockmeier

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Winner of the 2008 T. S. Eliot Prize

Victoria Brockmeier composes a mosaic of storytelling, myths, and feminist ideas.


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Winner of the 2008 T. S. Eliot Prize

Victoria Brockmeier composes a mosaic of storytelling, myths, and feminist ideas in her award-winning collection of poems, my maiden cowboy names. Both linguistically playful and genuinely experimental, these poems explore the smallness of human experience. The sumptuousness and vitality of this collection does not sacrifice the capacity for excavating observation and sharp wit. Lush and spacious, these poems revel in the unexpectedly beautiful and the beautifully broken.

This is magic. The poet’s passion for language will compel you to read on and on, eager to get to the next line, the next poem. With originality and inventiveness, urgency and joy, Brockmeier explores no less than the nature of our changing selves. She exalts the life of American farms and fields, exclaiming: “I want this poem to leave the taste / of the mud-salad Ozarks in your mouth. / I want you to feel the mission in our voiceless soil.”

—Grace Schulman

A gorgeous and original collection, my maiden cowboy names takes place where what we call Western Civilization meets what we thought of as the “west”: where the mouth tastes of earth and the muses move fluidly through identities, mapping myth and song onto “voiceless soil,” Victoria Brockmeier plows the background growl of destruction and anger in the American landscape into a “broken music” resounding “in [our] bones.”

—Laura Mullen

It’s a joy to know that at last the work of this talented poet has been collected in a book—and what a book it is. Often set against dark, off-kilter, strangely mythic Midwestern and Southern landscapes, these poems are sonically complex, sensual, and riveting, the poet’s eye always in motion, her intelligence both frenetic and deep. She evokes Homer and Euripedes with entomology and carnival life, jazz riffs, and the possibly imaginary practice of cow tipping, woven together into rich verbal textures. Victoria Brockmeier is a brilliant writer and my maiden cowboy names is an excellent read.

—Kevin Prufer



house that burned itself down
merciful, meager, struck through the veins
unseaming season
lark: to thieve as though in open country
cow tipping
high school sweetheart
work of laura
pastoral w/dirt under its fingernails
they are mountains they are hills
fishy parts
becoming a ghost
l’esprit de l’escalier
with the bare hands
sailors, take warning
at hyacinth’s perihelion
subtropic zone
xmas eve
bees in my walls
the poetry combine: a collaborative documentary
thirteen ways of looking at kudzu
the bursting miracle
vespers, flown
carminae arcana
on a boy named for war, enrolled in my afternoon comp class
the space from polestar to dogstar

about the author


A former artist's model, astrophysics major, Avon lady, and professional fortuneteller, Victoria Brockmeier has published poetry in LIT, New Letters, Pleiades, Spoon River Poetry Review, Boston Review, and other journals. She earned her MFA at Louisiana State University and is currently writing her dissertation, titled "Apostate, Sing This World Forth: Avant-Mythopoetic Encounters With Doubt, Chaos, and Secular Community" at the University of Buffalo, where she also coordinates dove|tail, a series of poetry readings and chapbooks.