Donna Stonecipher

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Donna Stonecipher is an American poet.


She grew up in Seattle and Teheran, and lived in Prague from 1994 to 1998. She graduated from the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop, with an MFA in 2001. She completed her PhD in English and Creative Writing at the University of Georgia.

She has published five books of poetry and one of prose, as well as several translations. Her poems have appeared in Paris Review, Denver Quarterly, the Indiana Review, New American Writing, SAND Journal[1] and Conjunctions. She translates from French and German. Her translations have appeared in Circumference, Action Yes, chicagopostmodernpoetry.

The New York Times named her 2018 collection Transaction Histories one of the 10 best poetry books of the year.[2]

She lives in Berlin, Germany.[3]




  • The Reservoir. University of Georgia Press. 2002. ISBN 978-0-8203-2463-0.
  • Souvenir de Constantinople. Instance Press. 2007. ISBN 978-0-9679854-5-9.
  • The Cosmopolitan. Coffee House Press. 2008. ISBN 978-1-56689-221-6.
  • Model City. Shearsman. 2015. ISBN 978-1-84861-388-1.
  • Transaction Histories. University of Iowa Press. 2018. ISBN 978-1-60938-602-3.






The Cosmopolitan, both mysterious and inevitable like all truly great writing, is both oasis and mirage for the reader. It takes some presumption to assume the role of the cosmopolitan, to pass gorgeously through the swabbed-for-Semtex-and-C4 jetways. The cosmopolitan upholds both a system and a dream. The system offers a lingua franca for all airline pilots, a worldwide striving for on-time arrivals and departures via gleaming concourses. In the dream the cosmopolitan is aloft, gazing down at local color, a consumer of nationalities enacting the privilege of appreciating the various arts, beauties and flavors. This is, we often say, one small globe. But the reader, enticed to travel in Stonecipher’s precisely observed world, becomes the character below in part one of “Inlay 16 (Thomas Bernhard)”:

“He wanted to be a citizen of the world and was crushed to discover that the world fields no citizens as such. So he settled for drifting with the voluptés of the clouds. And that is how he met her on a ship from Spain to Morocco, eating clementines and throwing the perfectly spiraled peels into the sea.”

The cosmopolitan is the one who knows the difference between the Hutus and the Tutsis.[5]

On the surface, Souvenir de Constantinople, A Poem by Donna Stonecipher is about travel and about a place, but also about more than that--as any good travel work should be)--as it works itself, stalking and sneaking through, in lyric and even postcard-type fragments.... When Alberto Manuel wrote about The Odyssey, or Salman Rushdie on The Wizard of Oz, both understood that all stories about travel were essentially about home, and the hope of an eventual return. Writing her poem through references that include the journals of Marco Polo (a badly written but infamous travelogue), after her trip and her travels, and all that her narrator has learned, is this all Stonecipher is left with? [6]

In her first book of poems, The Reservoir, Donna Stonecipher records her own displacement as the survivor of a world that exists only in reflection. It is a world Stonecipher is “anxious to tell” her “version of,” but “must be careful how many times” she asks “to be rescued” from it. Fear of dissolution—the kind that presages self-disclosure—often results in the revelation that “you can talk for hours before you realize you won’t say it.” Drawing upon the image of the reservoir as a vessel of containment, Stonecipher attempts to record the seepage and evaporation of her world, as well as the function of memory to act as a catch basin for such loss.[7]


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