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Melissa Broder

Melissa Broder is the author of two poetry collections, Meat Heart and When You Say One Thing But Mean Your Mother. She edits La Petite Zine and curates the Polestar Poetry Series. By day is a publicity manager at Penguin.


“This debut from Broder…is as funny and hip as it is disturbing…These poems are also quirkily compassionate…sexy, and at times even gross… Throughout, Broder searches for a place to stand, and for an object for her considerable sympathies. This is a bright and unusual debut.”

– Publishers Weekly

“…obsessive, energetic and pop-culture-infused poetry…”

– Time Out New York

“When You Say One Thing But Mean Your Mother characterizes a new generation of poets who have cast off the safety net of simple repartée. . . . Broder’s insight and honesty will make your brain light up and your hair stand on end.”

– The San Francisco Examiner

“Broder’s verse is acrobatic and whip-smart. . . . These poems go on gut rhythm and beg for exclamation in a crowded room rather than the mute restraint of the printed page. And that’s a good thing too.”

– Bomb

"Broder reminds us that we come from the womb, but there’s no returning thereto. Yet, with a delightful balance between the dark and the heady, the poems provide a sense that revelry in moments of bleakness is always both possible and desirable."

– American Book Review

“Broder’s observations on the meaning and nonsense of pop culture are penetrating and illuminating . . . a vibrant and eclectic collection.”


“Broder can work with anything—from the Dixie cups at the methadone clinic to pots of chicken soup . . . a major statement from a poet with skill and soul.”

– decomP

“Lusty, obsessive, and drug-fueled are words not usually used to describe a book of poems—but in this case, they apply. Melissa Broder’s work offers readers a rush, buzz, panoply of pop culture, as well as her own boisterous brand of dark humor. But be warned: behind the irrepressible excess, an extremely clear-headed and sharp-witted poet is taking notes. Her unique gift for being both grounded and giddy at once gives this writing its delightfully wicked edge.”

– Elaine Equi, Ripple Effect

“Melissa Broder’s poems are bad-ass ninja assassins smoking Camel straights and drinking Tab in blood-soaked satin tutus. . . . She speaks in many tongues, and all of them bite.”

– Jennifer L. Knox, Drunk By Noon

“Broder surveys the public and private landscapes of America in this sticky, syrupy late night breakfast of contemporary culture. . . . Everything you love and hate about consumer culture and the media is in this book.”

– Matthew Rohrer, Rise Up

“Melissa Broder’s ebullient, essayistic poems pay attention to sounds and sense, rousing tunes out of Duane Reades and words like “unhitchery” equally. She addresses her poems to a world of non-poetic people who might find themselves in her poems: people with acne, teenage waifs, and aging anarchists alike. They are cosmopolitan in a playful kind of way. They’re super poems.”

– Daniel Nester, How to Be Inappropriate

"Broder speaks with tart charm and arresting detail of a generation figuring out how and what to love. Her poems are droll, edgy, a little on edge, and deftly poetic. Even when they speak out of the side of their mouth, under their breath they are wonderfully, and subversively, moral.”

– David Groff, Theory of Devolution

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Featured Book

When You Say One Thing But Mean Your Mother

The Darkness of a Whole Generation Living Without Consolation


There’s a beautiful tension in Melissa Broder’s poetry — the darkness of a whole generation living without consolation, the humour that refuses to take the first element seriously, the microcosm of personality types living outside their time, and the macro view of an America obsessed with staying now. Sweet wisdom grinds against nasty portraits of adolescent insecurity, old hippies and junkies totter on in a world where brand names are the new great signifiers, all held together by a great satirical bent that can’t help but put its own concerns in the absurd tableau with the rest.

Broder’s eye for the absurd, the ability to find the goofiness in any situation (or, failing that, to make it goofy with just the right word), compelled me to publish her debut collection, When You Say One Thing But Mean Your Mother. Even the most deeply personal confessions in her poetry are tempered by an inveterate playfulness, a voice that plays with language (good), but also plays with the modern poet’s role of great complainer (even better). Her narrators come across as richly imagined characters, each with a different version of a smirk directed toward her subject, but with a special sensitivity as well.

Some of the finest moments in this collection, however, come when Broder turns her satirical eye to herself, and to the world of poetry itself. For instance, the first few lines of the poem, “Dear Billy Collins,” where Broder pulls off an impeccable impression of the man himself:

“If I don’t stop using

the word fingerbang

I’ll never get to be


poet laureate.”

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1 Comment

  1. Jordan Blum said on 10/11/11 at 10:03 am Reply

    Very good assessment, Jason. You’ve effectively made me want to read it this book. I’m intrigued by the idea of the “modern poet’s role of great complainer…” Where do we see this? Is it just the “modern poet” that complains, or is part of all poetry picking apart perceived problems (yes–I just phrased it like that). And I totally get the idea of satirizing your own craft. While I’ve written a lot of poetry and have had several pieces published, I take the entire form (which, in a way, is formless) with a grain of salt. I wrote a expansive piece called “Acrosticalyptic” which details a man taking a train to Hell, meeting the devil, and reflecting on his life. Of course, vertically, it says “Yet Another Meaningless Piece of Poetry.” I think it’s important to realize the silliness of pretension as we are being pretentious.


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