The University of Wisconsin Press


Greg Wrenn

The Brittingham Prize in Poetry
Ronald Wallace, Series Editor

Winner of the 2013 Brittingham Prize in Poetry, selected by Terrance Hayes

Centaur testifies to the grave fact that humans can harm each other until they want to trade in their bodies: ‘I want to feel alive,’ says the man seeking to become a centaur as the book begins. This is a masterful poetic debut marked by lyric brilliance and difficult, yet gleaming, wisdom.”
—Katie Ford, author of Colosseum

Greg Wrenn’s debut collection opens with a long poem in which a man undergoes surgery to become a centaur. Other poems speak in voices as varied as those of Robert Mapplethorpe, Hercules, and a Wise Man at the birth of Jesus. Centaur skitters along the blurred lines between compulsivity and following one’s heart, stasis and self-realization, human and animal. Here, suffering and transcendence are restlessly conjoined.

“Wrenn guides us through the darkest circles, a Virgil, a Beatrice, and a bit of Jerry Springer all rolled into one vatic voice. I feel that I am learning poetry anew at a dark end of this cul-de sac, where terror and pleasure preside equally over one American family.”—D.A. Powell, Boston Review

“These powerful poems mark the aliveness, suffering, and sensuality of the body. They map out erotic adventures and the loneliness of human need. They flout danger with superb lyric craft. But they don't stop there. Each poem offers a paradigm of yearning held together by a rare excellence of language and music. This is a marvelous debut collection.”—Eavan Boland, author of A Journey with Two Maps

Greg Wrenn
, a native of northeast Florida, is a former Wallace Stegner Fellow and a recipient of the Lyric Poetry Award from the Poetry Society of America. His work has appeared in New England Review, The American Poetry Review, The Yale Review, and elsewhere. He is a Jones Lecturer at Stanford University.


“These pieces are concerned with the timeless tide of humanity—the characters lose something of themselves as they encounter the inexorable, shared experience of birth, reproduction, and mortality, yet the focus on their interior lives allows them to remain individuals. In thrall to the animal laws of sex and death, Wescott’s work is also a meditative affirmation of our mystic, fragile sentience.”
Rain Taxi

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May 2013
LC: 2012032696 PS
92 pp.   6 x 9  

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Paper $16.95 t
ISBN 978-0-299-29444-1
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“The magic here, like the best magic, transforms with each encounter. Fluid, tempered, atmospheric: Centaur is a beautiful, encompassing debut.”
—Terrance Hayes, Brittingham Prize judge and National Book Award winner

“The terrific, turbulent poems in Greg Wrenn’s Centaur seem as much etched as written—acid-exact, black promises on white possibilities, lines and space crosshatched with thrilling precision. These poems will startle you at first, and then haunt you long after.”
—J. D. McClatchy, editor of The Yale Review and author of Hazmat


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Updated February 28, 2013

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