Winner of the 2005 Book Prize in Poetry

About the Book

She “became famous, finally, to herself,” Kathleen Flenniken writes. This is the kind of fame at the heart of most lives and at the center of Flenniken’s first collection, the winner of the Prairie Schooner Book Prize in Poetry. Here “a little voice sings / from the back of the auditorium / of my throat. Aren’t all of us / waiting to be discovered?” The poet’s answer is sometimes grave, sometimes comic, but always tuned to the incidental music of daily life.


You can read an excerpt from Famous on the University of Nebraska Press website here.


“There is not a shred of pretentiousness [in these poems]. . . . Famous is a genuine treasure, which undoubtedly is why it was awarded the 2005 Prairie Schooner Book Prize in Poetry.”—The Seattle Times

“What emerges from the poems, taken as a group and as a loose narrative, is a familiar and mundane persona that could correspond to that of many middle-class American female poets. . . . [B]ut this life is, beautifully and completely, transformed into art. . . . [I]t is rare to come across a poet of familiar contemporary experience like Kathleen Flenniken, whose imaginative, convincing tropes, sense of rhythm and sound, sharp intellect, narrative instinct, and resistance to cliche transform that experience into art so compelling that it makes us wonder how have we come to doubt it could be done?”—Bloomsbury Review

“[Famous] weaves together two seemingly antithetical themes: the comic indignations and attractions of minor celebrities, and the everyday joys and sorrows of family life. . . . Ordinariness—our need for it, and our frustrations with it—becomes Flenniken’s signature subject: the quietest evenings ‘make you what you are.’ Flenniken . . . has fashioned a poetry comfortable with self-imposed limits. . . . She still finds herself searching after mysteries, in board games, novels, and her own life.” —Publishers Weekly Annex

“[Flenniken’s] own poems pluck out the most ordinary moments of everyday life and probe for the extraordinary.” —Barbara McMichael, Olympian (Olympia, WA) “A rich offering of plain but musical language and understated irony. . . . These poems are routinely surprising, filled with memorable imagery and delightful comparisons that will stay with the reader for a long time. —42opus.com “There’s a consistency of voice and diction in Famous that satisfies and a carefully rendered emotional core to the poems, which quietly surprises.”—Stephen Dunn, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Different Hours

“Exploring the external trappings of contemporary life as well as the internal cadences of a mind that wants at once to be ‘shocking and irresistible,’ Kathleen Flenniken takes us into the slipstreams of fame, where our daily dramas play themselves out in the ‘wild uncoded rhythms’ of the imagination.”—Judith Kitchen, author of The House on Eccles Road “Unpretentious, self-effacing, earthy, funny, and wise.”—Peggy Shumaker, author of Blaze

“There’s a winning surface modesty here: it isn’t Abraham Lincoln who merits the poem, but his oft-maligned wife; not Edna St. Vincent Millay, but her stay-at-home husband; not the Taj Mahal, but the everyday International House of Pancakes. Still, in Flenniken’s hands, these occasions rise toward urgent news—as when, in ‘Shampoo,’ the memory of a mother’s declining health soulfully becomes one with the headline about a submarine’s sinking—until the leastmost of us are transformed, poem by poem, into the famous.”—Albert Goldbarth, author of Saving Lives, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award

“With simple and honest language [Flenniken] weaves a journey of common, everyday moments that make up the human experience and giver her readers an unpretentious look at our very own reputations as parents, wives, husbands, children, and creators. . . . This is not a collection of poems one should read only once.”—Stacey Rollins, Big Muddy: A Journal of the Mississippi

Kathleen Flenniken

About the Author

Kathleen Flenniken’s poems have appeared in Poetry, The Iowa Review, The Southern Review, Mid-American Review, Farm Pulp, Prairie Schooner, and Poetry Daily. She is the recipient of a 2005 Literary Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, and a 2003 Literary Fellowship from Artist Trust, along with grants from Artist Trust and Seattle Office of Arts and Culture. Her first collection of poems, Famous, has been named a Notable Book of the Year by the American Library Association (ALA). Kathleen is a co-editor and president of Floating Bridge Press, an all-volunteer non-profit press dedicated to publishing Washington State poets. She’s taught poetry in the schools through the Washington State Arts Commission, Writers in the Schools, Powerful Partners, Northwest School, and led poetry workshops for students of all ages. She grew up in Richland, in Eastern Washington and is a Northwesterner through and through, a daughter of Oregonians. She moved to Seattle in her twenties to marry, and her husband and three children still live there. She came to poetry late, after earning B.S. and M.S. degrees in Civil Engineering from Washington State University and University of Washington, and working eight years as an engineer and hydrologist, three on the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. She started writing when she quit work to stay home with our children. For years her subject has been domestic, ordinary life. She sees herself as a natural historian of interiors. This is the focus of Famous. Her work recently has taken a turn, and she’s in the midst of a series of poems about growing up near and working at Hanford, where plutonium was produced for the atomic bomb. The new work is fueled by her growing distress about her country’s future.