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Books by Kelle Groom

I Wore the Ocean in the Shape of a Girl: A Memoir

Five Kingdoms: Poems

Luckily: Poems

Underwater City: Poems

Reviews

I Wore the Ocean in the Shape of a Girl:
A Memoir
Free Press/Simon & Schuster 2011

I Wore the Ocean in the Shape of A Girl Book Cover

"The alchemy of the poet’s craft allows Groom to transform the worst horrors—the death of a child and addiction—into a gorgeous tale of grace. With not one word of self-pity, this is an unflinching look at a life saved by forgiveness."
Library Journal's Best Memoirs of 2011
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“[W]hen the author has been through enough to have learned some big lessons and has the chops to express them well, the result can be exhilarating. Such is the case with acclaimed poet Kelle Groom's new memoir, I Wore the Ocean in the Shape of A Girl… The bare bones of the plot are certainly gripping — the loss of a son she never knew, the lifelong grieving process and investigation of that loss — but it is Groom's writing that stakes out the book's place in the genre and, in ways, seeks to elevate it. After reading I Wore the Ocean, you'll wish that more poets would write their lives in prose — Groom's voice feels vital and awake, uncompromising and refreshingly spare. Groom beautifully summons the smallest moments from her memory… The writing of this memoir is yet another step in Groom's return to health, but it has the depth to serve a larger purpose, too. I Wore the Ocean would be a comforting resource for any parent who has lost a child, either to illness or to alcoholism. Groom's story might even encourage others to mine their histories to reconnect — if only spiritually — with an estranged loved one.”
NPR
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"so piercing and true that you live the story as much as read it. Part of the book's emotional wallop is due to how it's organized—in short, dreamy chapters than skip forward and back in time, letting you piece together the chronology yourself—and part of it is due to Groom's exquisite, lyrical prose...extraordinarily moving..."
— Oprah.com
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"Her image-rich prose and unconventional sense of the paragraph surprise and resonate. Dynamic passages, often intentionally unhinged, tug against familiar expectations... Groom writes about herself without pretending and about others without blaming, delivering wide-eyed observations even in low-lit, murky places. Closing Groom’s book I hear Eudora Welty and Walt Whitman… The ocean is worn, the girl is shaped, visible.”
— New York Times Book Review
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"Kelle Groom's [memoir] is intimate in a generous, revelatory way. . . . the reader is enlightened as Groom slowly releases her burdens. Discover: A dark journey through addiction, enlightened by lyrical prose and hard-earned wisdom." 
Shelf Awareness
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"Gorgeous, poetic language ... is the backbone of this unflinching look at a life saved by forgiveness. Are you a human being? Read this book!"
Starred pre-pub review, Library Journal
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"Groom’s stunning memoir reads more like poetry than prose and leaves the ‘brain singing with neurons like a city at night.’ . . . . Her astonishing struggle and unique resurrection illuminate the universal human effort to embrace one’s self, accepting personal flaws, demons, and methods of survival.”
Booklist

“The triumph of Kelle Groom’s memoir, I Wore the Ocean in the Shape of a Girl, lies in her plangent, poetic prose as she lays bare the onset of her alcoholism at age 15, the child she bore and gave up at 19, and her dead-end jobs, upset parents, blackouts, hookups, and, eventually, slow and steadfast embrace of a sober, creative life.”
— Lisa Shea, Elle

"A visceral, darkly lyrical narrative" 
Kirkus Reviews
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"The beauty of memoir in wise hands is that the author can take a stock character (a drunken teen, for example) and twist your perceptions. Groom turns the experiences of a party girl inside-out, illuminating the architecture of willful oblivion. In a few sentences, she renders an evening of carousing—the blurry rush of emotions and images—with the sparky precision of a Rembrandt etching."
— Oxford American
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"Everything is still and yet moving at once. Then, in the middle of the symphony of destruction and chaos, you find her: the lone survivor. The real strength of Groom’s memoir is her poetic language. I read everything with a pen in hand, underlining passages and phrases that impress me. Usually I have ten, maybe a dozen passages throughout...underlined or starred. With this book, I have a line on every page, sometimes several, bearing the imprint of my admiration and awe. I am not sure that in my lifetime I have ever read anything so rooted in the collective experience of being a woman. I have never been an addict, have never lost a child, yet the way Groom articulates the deepest recesses of the female psyche made me feel a sense of recognition that I have never felt before."
— Brevity
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“Her [Groom's] writing is a wonderfully compelling mix of simple and lyrical"
Publishers Weekly
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"In a series of beautifully compressed narratives, Groom, who grapples here with the very meaning of motherhood, describes devastating binges... As heartbreaking as this book is, Groom writes with a captivating urgency. Her salvation, a result of her tireless quest for clarity, will leave you cheering."
Susanna Sonnenberg, More
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A "searing yet lyrical memoir"
— Boston Globe
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"Groom, a poet, creates a trance-like state with her writing...surprisingly sweet, heartbreaking and ultimately redeeming."
— Miami Herald
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[I]mportant, though, is the thematic effect of … time-shifting [in I Wore the Ocean in the Shape of a Girl]: the sense that the past is irrevocably whirled up with the present, that choices and events from years ago are still with us, that future events will be colored by what happened two years ago and yesterday and right now. This is true, of course, but I’ve rarely seen the idea so subtly expressed in a nonfiction memoir. Tommy has always just died in this story; he’s always about to be taken away; he’s always being held for the first time. The effect is harrowing.”
PopMatters
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"Reading this book can be a mind-altering experience... I Wore the Ocean in the Shape of a Girl is utterly unlike any other memoir I’ve read...metaphor as brilliant, painful and targeted as a laser. Lovers of language will get pleasurably lost in this account of the mysterious and gradual coalescence of self-identity."
— The Orlando Weekly
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"Expanded from a much-praised Ploughshares essay, I Wore the Ocean in the Shape of a Girl is an unflinching yet deeply poetic memoir that captures the rawness and urgency of addiction as well as the tenderness and heartbreak surrounding the loss of a son. The grace and power of Groom's voice and the quality of her writing will linger in readers' minds. "
Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers
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"It’s difficult to over-estimate the emotional intensity of this book.... If I Wore the Ocean in the Shape of a Girl is the story of self-loss, it is also a record of the writer’s healing and great strength.  Groom digs perilously deep in her psyche to show us not only the shattering, but her own piecing together of identity.  Self-help groups, hospitalizations, half-hearted interventions, lovers, and anodynes all failed to realize in Groom what writing eventually achieved.  Writing gave Groom a means of uncovering the past, recovering what seemed lost inside her.  Most importantly, it offered Groom and her readers a hypnotic lineage of associations and images that tell the gorgeous and disturbing truth of a life’s journey from chaotic self-erasure to the moment when Tommy and his mother finally see each other as they were, and as they perpetually are in this unforgettable, haunting book.   
— John Pearson, The Florida Review
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“ [A] writer's poignant tale a search for buried self, child she lost. Halfway into her ravishing mosaic of a memoir, it's easy to lose count of the dark nights. … The poetry that describes the horror of her downward spiral is alternately beautiful and terrifying… Each memory can be held up to the light to reveal another meaning…the story shimmers... In the end, by breaking a decades-long silence, Groom has weathered her dark nights to earn a soul as big as the ocean. As it gradually takes the shape of a girl, a woman and finally a mother, the reader, too, comes away transformed.”
— Atlanta Journal Constitution
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"Tommy, reborn through his mother's empathy, is the pearl sprung from the bitterness of Groom's early life, elegized in a memoir reminiscent of Mary Karr's Lit."
— Barnes & Noble Review
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"I Wore the Ocean in the Shape of a Girl is a stunningly written memoir... powerful indeed."
Wendy Hudson, Nantucket Bookworks for Harper's Bazaar
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"Groom's lyrical prose is addictive. Brilliantly lucid, richly suggestive and ruthlessly honest, this memoir is a triumph of art and life.
— Naples Florida Weekly
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"[R]endered with graceful lyricism. All events become nearly simultaneous within the narrative, allowing the reader a unique perspective which seems to transcend time... stories in this memoir feel...like the pulse that forces life through all of us.
— New Madrid, Summer 2011
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"...trust her. Follow her. The narrative is truer to emotional reality than simple linear time."
--MediaVixenRecommends
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  " Each memory...is like a poem." --Her Circle: A Magazine of Women's Creative Arts and Activism
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"Intense"
— The Book Shelf
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Five Kingdoms: Poems
Anhinga Press 2010
Florida Book Award winner

Five Kingdoms Book Cover

"The Best New Poetry ...unexpectedly moving."
-- Entertainment Weekly
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"The poems in Kelle Groom's third collection, Five Kingdoms, weave gracefully between the personal and the political, wrestling larger cultural crises down to their human components....This ultimately human need to connect, to comfort, even across millions of years, becomes the driving force of Five Kingdoms....It is rare to find such a range of emotion, intellect and humor housed in one poet-but here it is, and it is a gift. Groom's is a fiercely intelligent, defiant voice, singing with all her passion and formidable insight."
-- Ilyse Kusnetz, The Florida Review, 2011
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“Kelle Groom’s third book of poetry hauntingly examines how the five kingdoms of living things interact with each other across time and space. Her poems span the globe and the history of Earth, from a three-million-year-old skeleton in Ethiopia to a White House conference with Jeb Bush in Tampa. Groom insists that history, place, and humans are superimposed on each other. [T]he lens of archaeology and architecture renders the curtain between the living and the dead translucent. Groom does not stop with the idea of human resurrection; her poems are a call to recognize the necessity of all life on earth. “Count all the living things,” she commands in the poem “Five Kingdoms”. The balance that must exist on Earth exists in these poems as the merging of human, animal, plant, and element… [One] speaker deals with fear, another speaker confronts the social forces that separate people, saying, “I wanted to walk / toward her, but others rose up between us like the sea.” In Groom’s world, each life rediscovers itself in a reflection of its surroundings. She [also] keenly weaves a consciousness of modern culture into these poems… The urgency is the need to save and cherish all life, and Groom’s gift is making you want to do so.”
--New Madrid, Summer 2010
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"A stunning collection of poems."
-- Poets' Quarterly, Winter 2011
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"In Kelle Groom’s poem “In the City,” from her new book, Five Kingdoms (her third volume of poetry), a reader must explore loss so seldom discussed we might not otherwise think of it...  Five Kingdoms uses such small intimacies to address isolation, mortality, and love. What moves this reader is Groom’s skill with our common language and her intuitive manner of taking a simple,unremarkable moment and embodying its revelations."
-- Bloomsbury Review, Vol 31, Issue 2, 2011
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"Luminous"
-- GRL
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Underwater City: Poems
University Press of Florida, 2004

Underwater City Book Cover

"Underwater City introduces us to a voice that is both ghost-like and full of wonder. Her imagery is as fantastical and as clear as Magritte's. At times, Groom's poems are so powerful that they seem to touch at undiscovered emotional centers that both shake and comfort us."
--The Missouri Review, "On Recent American Poetry"
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"Groom skillfully connects loves to losses, generations to one another, and oceans near and distant. . . Each poem offers exceptional craftsmanship, precisely rendered emotions, and haunting images."
--Southern Humanities Review

"Groom proceeds--headlong, staggering and every now and then stumbling onto something extraordinary."
"...on closer inspection they [Kelle Groom's poems] start to look like another genre altogether -- something almost pre-prosaic. Many are explicitly about dreams, and even those that aren't tend to follow a dream logic and employ a dream syntax. Their fundamental unit is neither the line nor the sentence, but the thought."
--New York Times Book Review
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Interviews

KNPR Interview
(April 5, 2012):
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Boston Globe Q&A
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Beatrice.com
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WORD
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Miami Herald
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NBC Miami
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A Conversation with Kelle Groom (from Simon & Schuster RGG)
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Barnes & Noble Q&A with Kelle Groom
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Simon & Schuster Q&A
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Ploughshares
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BOOK BOUND
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Radiant Light
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32 poems
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PoetryNet
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her circle ezine
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CDR
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Orlando Sentinel
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