Winner of the Shelley Memorial Award 2017

Finalist for Los Angeles Times Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award

Photo Domenic Stansberry

Photo Domenic Stansberry

Gillian Conoley is an American poet, translator and editor.

POETRY:  Awarded the Shelley Memorial Award in Poetry for lifetime achievement in 2017 from the Poetry Society of America, Conoley is the author of seven collections of poetry. Her eighth book, A LITTLE MORE RED SUN ON THE HUMAN: NEW AND SELECTED POEMS, will appear with Nightboat Books in October 2019.

Her most recent book, PEACE , was named a finalist for the LA Times Book Award in 2014. Her translation of three books by Henri Michaux, brought into English for the first time, appeared with City Lights the same year and was named one of the Top Ten Poetry Books of 2014 by Publishers’ Weekly.


FROM WIKIPEDIA: "Conoley's work is difficult to classify into any discrete poetic category. Haunted by narrative, linguistically alive, the work is inventive and exploratory. Conoley's poems are often meditations on culture which may contain multiple dictions and narrative directions. The failure of democracy, the relation between spirit and matter, the individual and the state, metaphysics, gender and race, story and song, and language itself are of particular interest. Alice Notley has described Conoley’s poems: “Masterfully composed in the hot spaces and so rhythmic sounds Americans have put to their times. ‘Like gold into scar/a twister in the skull.’” THE ANTIOCH REVIEW has said of Conoley’s work: “Here we find the peculiarly American matter-of-factness of the small-town exotic coming face-to-face with intellectual high-brow energy. Carson McCullers meets Gertrude Stein. Perhaps Jane Bowles is an appropriate comparison.” Barbara Guest wrote, "The poems of Gillian Conoley lead us up to then step just out of sight where an ordinary sign begins. They beckon us from where an invisible power distorts; a sudden view appears of innocence aslant.'"


BACKGROUND INFORMATION:  Born in Austin, Texas  and raised in Taylor, a small town where her mother and father operated a country western radio station, Conoley attended SMU and later worked as reporter for the Dallas Morning News. Conoley now makes her home with her family in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she is currently Professor and Poet-in-Residence at Sonoma State University, and the founder and editor of Volt. She has taught as a Visiting Writer at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop at the University of Iowa, University of Denver, Texas State University, Tulane University, Vermont College of the Arts, and the University of New Orleans.


RECOGNITION:  Conoley received the Shelley Memorial Award from the Poetry Society of  America in 2017 in recognition of  her body of work.  She has also been a National Book Critics Circle nominee; a recipient of the Jerome J. Seshtack Poetry Prize from The American Poetry Review;  a recipient of a Fund for Poetry Award, and a Los Angeles Times Book Award finalist.   



Her work has been anthologized widely, including  Norton’s American Hybrid, Norton Anthology of Postmodern Poetry, Counterpath’s Postmodern Lyricisms, Mondadori’s Nuova Poesia Americana (Italy), The Body Electric: the Best Poetry from The American Poetry Review, Best American Poetry, and others.


Conoley has assembled a shockingly varied body of work comprising narrative, lyric, and fragmented forms. Her work draws from multiple sources, at once innovative, experimental and classical. Her coruscating vibrant poems are informed by visual art and film, political engagement and playful linguistic constructions. In the work, sound deepens our acquaintance with landscape, and enriches our encounter with human life.


Conoley’s poem “Next and the Corner” appears in NY artist Jenny Holzer’s public art installation at the Transbay Terminal transit center in downtown San Francisco. Opened in August 2018, Holzer’s permanent project “White Light” is a 182 feet long LED screen that wraps within the Grand Hotel’s glass enclosure. “White Light” displays text from 42 writers who have lived in or spent time in San Francisco, also including Joan Didion, Machine Gun Kelley, Gertrude Stein, Simone de Beauvoir, and Harvey Milk. Lengths range from 45 seconds to two hours.

Conoley’s poem “In the Next Next World” became a text for composition by celebrated composer and professor Jamie Leigh Sampson at SUNY Freedonia in Western New York. The piece premiered at the Banff Centre in Canada for tenor voice and harp in Summer 2018.

Another collaboration included a performance with buhto dancer Judith Kajuwara, from Conoley’s collection PEACE. Omnidawn Benefit, Summer 2017. Studio Oakland.

An expanded version of this collaboration occurred with Judith Kajuwara and guitarist Cole Henry, Sonoma State University, Schroeder Hall, November 2017.