Erinn Batykefer was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania during one of the coldest Januaries on record, and grew up dividing her time between the Northland Public Library, where she worked as a page (read: hid in the stacks and read voraciously, ears pricked for the sound of footsteps and heart pounding at the very thought of getting caught), and the Allegheny River, where she learned to row.
Erinn Batykefer’s first collection, Allegheny, Monongahela, was chosen by Peggy Shumaker as winner of the 2008 Benjamin Saltman Prize at Red Hen Press and hailed as a ‘haunting, sinuous debut’ made of ‘a language at once torrential yet controlled, dark yet luminous’ (Quan Barry). Her work has earned numerous awards, including a Martha Meier Renk Distinguished Poetry Fellowship at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a Stadler Poetry Fellowship at Bucknell University, where she also served as Stadler Associate Editor of West Branch.
Erinn is currently at work on a new collection of poetry that re-imagines Jane Eyre, as well as a memoir she describes as ‘a fractured coming-of-age story about sisterhood, rowing, art, masochism, anorexia and bulimia, American girlhood, love, cruelty, and really great 90s music, among other things.’ She lives in Pennsylvania.
Publication Date: February 15, 2009
Using the confluence of rivers in Pittsburgh as a metaphorical lens, Allegheny, Monongahela probes the ruinous misalignment between the external and internal lives of two sisters and their childhood in Western Pennsylvania. Their complex and difficult relationship is the spine of the collection, told obliquely through a series of sonnets and ekphrastic meditations on the paintings of Georgia O’Keeffe: the ways in which they separately navigate a violent family history that reverberates through their present and futures; their polarized impulses toward creativity and self-destruction. Rooted in a mutable, watery landscape that is not consistently recognizable, Allegheny, Monongahela investigates the collisions between the world and the self, the fissured identities that result, and the ways in which art may heal or fail to heal the cracks.