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Molly Peacock

Acclaimed Poet, Performer, & Writer

Readings & Lecture Topics

  • Poetry & Performance
  • Childless by Choice
  • Creativity in Later Years


“[Peacock] has a luxuriantly sensual imagination-and an equally sensual feel for the language. In mood her poems range from high-spirited whimsy to bemused reflection. Whatever the subject, rich music follows the tap of Molly Peacock’s baton.”-Washington Post

“Peacock’s poems are filled with little formal miracles, the sort of verbal dazzlement we grew up on but have starved for in the barren days of the plain style.”-Georgia Review

Author of six volumes of poetry, including The Second Blush and Cornucopia: New & Selected Poems, Molly Peacock has been widely anthologized. Her poems appear in The Best of the Best American Poetry and The Oxford Book of American Poetry. She is former president of the Poetry Society of America, and was a co-creator of the Poetry in Motion program in New York City’s public transportation. She co-edited the anthology Poetry in Motion: 100 Poems from the Subways and Buses.

Peacock is also the author of a memoir, Paradise, Piece by Piece, where she explains her choice not to have children, and the loneliness women often feel in dealing with the social pressures concerning motherhood. Her other prose books include How to Read a Poem…andStart a Poetry Circle. She is the editor of a collection of essays, The Private I: Privacy in a Public World. Her essay “Passion Flowers in Winter”appears in The Best American Essays, 2007.  Other essays have appeared in Elle, House & Garden, Creative Nonfiction, New York Magazine, and O the Oprah Magazine. A biography entitled The Paper Garden: Mrs. Delaney Begins Her Life’s Work at 72 was published in 2010 in Canada (McClelland and Stewart) and in Australia (Scribe); and in the US in 2011 under the title The Paper Garden: An Artist Begins Her Life’s Work at 72 (BloomsburyUSA). The book is at once a biography of an extraordinary eighteenth-century woman and a fascinating meditation on late-life creativity.

Peacock also wrote and performed in a one-woman show in poems, The Shimmering Verge, which presents her life as a poet. The show toured the US and Canada, including off Broadway. The New York Times described it as “stunning memory pieces…[with] animated, sometimes comical delivery.”

Among her honors are fellowships from the Danforth, Ingram Merrill, and Woodrow Wilson Foundations, as well as the National Endowment for the Arts. Her poems have appeared in The New Yorker, The Nation, The New Republic, The Paris Review, and other leading literary journals. She held a Fellowship from the Leon Levy Center for Biography at the CUNY Graduate Center to write about eighteenth-century flower collage artist Mary Delany. Peacock has been a writer-in-residence and teacher at numerous universities, and currently serves on the graduate faculty of the Spalding University Brief Residency MFA Program in Creative Writing.

She received a BA magna cum laude from SUNY Binghamton and an M.A. with honors from The Writing Seminars at The Johns Hopkins University. Born in Buffalo Peacock is also a citizen of Canada, where she resides with her husband. In Canada she is the series editor for The Best Canadian Poetry in English, and the Poetry Editor of the Literary Review of Canada.

Molly Peacock’s Website


Molly Peacock is the author of six books of poetry, including The Second Blush and Cornucopia: New & Selected Poems. She is also the author of several books of prose and a memoir, Paradie, Piece by Piece. Her poems have appeared in The New Yorker, The Nation, The New Republic, The Paris Review, and other leading literary journals. Among her honors are fellowships from the Danforth, Ingram Merrill, and Woodrow Wilson Foundations, as well as the National Endowment for the Arts. In Canada she is the series editor for The Best Canadian Poetry in English, and the Poetry Editor of the Literary Review of Canada.


THE PAPER GARDEN: AN ARTIST BEGINS HER LIFE’S WORK AT 72 (Biography, 2011)
A beautifully written tour de force from an internationally acclaimed poet, The Paper Garden is at once a biography of an extraordinary eighteenth-century woman and a fascinating meditation on late-life creativity. Mary Granville Pendarves Delany (1700–1788) was the witty, beautiful, and talented daughter of a minor branch of a powerful family. Married off at sixteen to a sixty-one-year-old drunken squire to improve the family fortunes, then widowed by twenty-five, she would spurn many suitors over the next twenty years, including the charismatic Lord Baltimore. She cultivated a wide circle of friends, including Handel and Jonathan Swift. And she painted, she stitched, she observed, as she swirled in the outskirts of the Georgian court. In mid-life, she finally found love, and married again. Upon her second husband’s death twenty-three years later, she arose from her grief; picked up a pair of scissors; and, at the age of seventy-two, created a new art form, mixed-media collage. Over the next decade, Mrs. Delany created an astonishing 985 botanically correct, breathtaking cut-paper flowers, now housed in the British Museum and referred to as the Flora Delanica. Delicately, Molly Peacock has woven parallels in her own life around the story of Mrs. Delany’s and, in doing so, has made this biography into a profound and beautiful examination of the nature of creativity and art. Gorgeously designed and featuring thirty-five full-colour illustrations, this is a sumptuous and lively book full of fashion and friendships, gossip and politics, letters and love. It’s to be devoured as voraciously as one of the court dinners it describes.

SECOND BLUSH (Poetry, 2009)
Poems that rhyme, what joy. Homey poems about an unexpected late marriage to the calm man a shy boy from the past became, what bliss. Sweet poems of bed, cats, and kitchen time that abruptly crack open to reveal the chasm of fear and loss: powerful stuff. Peacock is in peak form in these seductive poems that swing and twirl so prettily, then suddenly, deviously, shockingly carom from contentment to despair and back again, just like life. And how spangled and vivid each domestic scene is, how electric with feelings and shadowed by death, like paintings by Bonnard or Vuillard. Because cancer made the marriage seem “a doomed possibility,”because the poet is confronting the haunting absence of a beloved cat, a smashed cup, a scar, dreams of epic cold and a dead sister. But then there is also a “jeweled”drop of water. A surprising kiss. A yoga pose and its “lunging beauty.”Peacock is valiant, trenchant, funny, and on point. -Donna Seaman

PARADISE: PIECE BY PIECE (Memoir, 1999)
The author of four volumes of poetry, Molly Peacock proves she is equally adept at prose in this vividly graceful memoir. Some would say that Paradise, Piece by Piece is one more story of growing up in a dysfunctional family (alcoholic father, depressed mother, rebellious younger sister). Others would focus on Peacock’s turbulent romantic life, while others still would place the emphasis on her decision to remain childless. The truth of the matter is that all of these threads are vital components of a single, intricately woven tapestry, held together by Peacock’s painstaking attention to detail. Anybody who has struggled to define his or her own life against the expectations and demands of others (be they society or one’s own blood) will find inspiration in Molly Peacock’s life. -Amazon.com


THE PAPER GARDEN: AN ARTIST BEGINS HER LIFE’S WORK AT 72 (biography excerpt)

Imagine starting your life’s work at seventy-two. At just that age, Mary Granville Pendarves Delany (May 14, 1700-April 15, 1788), a fan of George Frideric Handel, a sometime dinner partner of satirist Jonathan Swift, a wearer of green-hooped satin gowns, and a fiercely devoted subject of blond king George III, invented a precursor of what we know as collage. One afternoon in 1772, she noticed how a piece of colored paper matched the dropped petal of a geranium. After making that vital imaginative connection between paper and petal, she lifted the eighteenth-century equivalent of an X-Acto blade (she’d have called it a scalpel) or a pair of filigree-handled scissors-the kind that must have had a nose so sharp and delicate that you could imagine it picking up a scent. With the instrument alive in her still rather smooth-skinned hand, she began to maneuver; carefully cutting the exact geranium petal shape from the scarlet paper.
Then she snipped out another.

And another, and another; and with the trance-like efficiency of repetition-commencing the most remarkable work of her life.

-from Chapter One, “Seedcase”

WHY I AM NOT A BUDDHIST

I love desire, the state of want and thought
of how to get; building a kingdom in a soul
requires desire. I love the things I’ve sought-
you in your beltless bathrobe, tongues of cash that loll
from my billfold- and love what I want: clothes,
houses, redemption. Can a new mauve suit
equal God? Oh no, desire is ranked. To lose
a loved pen is not like losing faith. Acute
desire for nut gateau is driven out by death,
but the cake on its plate has meaning,
even when love is endangered and nothingmatters.
For my mother, health; for my sister, bereft,
wholeness. But why is desire suffering?
Because want leaves a world in tatters?
How else but in tatters should a world be?
A columned porch set high above a lake.
Here, take my money. A loved face in agony,
the spirit gone. Here, use my rags of love.

-from Cornucopia: New and Selected Poems

THE FLAW

The best thing about a hand-made pattern
is the flaw.
Sooner or later in a hand-loomed rug,
among the squares and flattened triangles,
a little red nub might soar above a blue field,
or a purple cross might sneak in between
the neat ochre teeth of the border.
The flaw we live by, the wrong color floss,
now wreathes among the uniform strands
and, because it does not match,
makes a red bird fly,
turning blue field into sky.
It is almost, after long silence, a word
spoken aloud, a hand saying through the flaw,
I’m alive, discovered by your eye.

-from The Second Blush