Melissa Tuckey

Melissa Tuckey (Poetry) | Ithaca, NY

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Melissa Tuckey is a founding member of Split This Rock and a fellow at Black Earth Institute. Her book, Tenuous Chapel, was selected by Pulitzer Prize winning poet Charles Simic for the ABZ Press First Book Award in 2013. She’s recipient of a winter fellowship at Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, and artist awards from Ohio Arts Council, and DC Commission on Arts and Humanities. Tuckey is editor of Ghost Fishing: An Eco-Justice Poetry Anthology, forthcoming with University of Georgia Press. In January of 2016, she edited an Eco-Justice Poetry Portfolio at Poetry Magazine. Recent poems have appeared in Clade Song, Kenyon Review, and Missouri Review. She lives in Ithaca, New York.


Tenuous Chapel (ABZ Press, 2013). Poetry.


  • Rope As Witness (Pudding House, 2007). Poetry.

Blurbs, Press & Reviews

“If the hope of any poem is to render experience in a fresh, unsettling way, she has that gift. She likes to disorient us, pull the rug from under our expectations, and do so quickly and decisively, so we catch our breath in astonishment and delight…How beautiful, I kept saying to myself again and again reading her poems. Tuckey may call the chapel in the title of her poems “tenuous” but there’s nothing flimsy and insubstantial about all the fine poems she has collected here.”
—Charles Simic

“The poems in this impressive first book are evocative, elusive, spare, with heady feats of juxtaposition: Melissa Tuckey has pared their engaging narrative and descriptive elements down to emotional essences that invite the reader’s involvement. Highlighting both family matters and larger political and social issues, the poems often reference disappearance, and many are set in winter; but the builder of this Tenuous Chapel is ultimately able to ‘make green an offering’ and ‘believe in progress at a time when / everything is going backward.’ ”
—Martha Collins

“The poems in Melissa Tuckey’s Tenuous Chapel are stark yet radiant, ecstatic yet somber, metaphysical yet grounded in the intimate, the communal, and the political. She confronts the bewildering complexity of a violent world with candor and clarity, with wit and grace, with tenderness and wisdom. It is hard not to be held by the spell of these enigmatic and uncanny poems that delight and surprise at the turn of each line.”
—Eric Pankey

“Melissa Tuckey’s voice and vision are entirely her own. These precise and surprising poems reinvent a kind of Imagism with fresh eyes and a profound sense of real-world compassion, a poetry hard-earned and patiently well made.”
— Sam Hamill

“Tuckey has expanded her evocative chapbook, Rope as Witness, into this collection, chosen by Charles Simic. It’s a precise balance of the personal and political, the urgent and the observed, as beheld in Tuckey’s cool gaze. Her poems “Lesson in Cuban Cooking” and “Re: Acquittal of Generals” echo, though more briefly, the dry, hypnotic tone of Carolyn Forché’s famous prose poem “The Colonel:” “Wash the chicken in lime/ lift the embargo/ crush the ice and mint/ unify the ingredients.” Tuckey’s poems refrain from the use of periods or commas, often just passing a half-page in length. Instead, her pieces are punctuated by smart turns and unexpected imagery, making them particularly powerful in their brevity…”
Publishers Weekly (excerpt)

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