Darwins Mother cover


2018 Ohioana Book Award Finalist, Fan Favorite in Poetry Category.

Price: $15.95 | ISBN: 9780822965169

In Darwin’s Mother, curious beasts are excavated in archeological digs, Charles Darwin’s daughter describes the challenges of breeding pigeons, and a forest of trees shift and sigh in their sleep. With a keen sense of irony that rejects an anthropocentric worldview and an imagination both philosophical and playful, the poems in this collection are marked by a tireless curiosity about the intricate workings of life, consciousness, and humanity’s place in the universe.


“This striking and inventive second collection from Nordgren (Best Bones) reads as if a naturalist’s observational notebooks found a second, wondrous life as poetry.”

Publishers Weekly

“This is a work of anthropology critiquing anthropology, all through a painter’s lens. The poems in Darwin’s Mother are meticulously observed, precisely rendered portraits of humans as animals in a natural world we continuously understand (and misunderstand) in our own image.”

Kenyon Review

“Mythology and evolutionary science, intellectual and popular culture, micro organisms and dinosaurs, Eros and illness—these pairings play off each other throughout the book, to highlight another powerful pair: pathos and ambivalence. What is being considered here? That our desire for knowledge is both necessary and presumptuous? Perhaps, but I think the deeper recognition is the human tendency to order the world according to our own perspective. The poems in this sparkling book make it abundantly clear that such a perspective has stark limits, and the order we think we prefer might indeed be missing the point of existence.”

Maurice Manning

“Nordgren interrogates the accumulation of humankind’s scientific knowledge and concludes, correctly and poetically, that ‘our world/ is vast, but vanishingly small.’ As she observes the collisions between science and the material world, including the deeply unknowable Feminine, she convinces us that data can be seen as, interestingly enough, a metaphor for spirit. Read this astonishingly original collection and be edified and amazed. And grateful for this fine literary report from the field by such a keenly intelligent observer of our grand human experiment.”

Sidney Wade

Darwin’s Mother is an adventure in the human experience of anthropology and archeology, real and imaginary. Also full of stunning reports from the poet’s interior, as in ‘Moral Animal,’ and ‘Movie Night,’ the book has a big scope but feels strikingly honest. Sweet, painful, weird, smart, and deeply insightful.”

Jennifer Michael Hecht

“Darwin’s Mother is a treat as much for its language and imagery as it is for its philosophical and scientific content.  Come in for the birds, stick around for the ornithology!”

The Lake

“Nordgren delivers massively complex ideas in everyday language. She plays with persona to challenge the belief that humans are the supreme species. She questions science in a way that is weirdly warm and coldly humorous, often pointing to the beauty of raw data and a life beyond being too human.”

Tupelo Quarterly
Best Bones book cover


Winner of the 2013 Agnes Lynch Starrett Prize,
Selected by Ed Ochester

Price: $15.95 | ISBN: 9780822963172

The poems of Best Bones allude to landscapes of history, fable, and childhood myth, yet are fraught with modern day predicaments that create an atmosphere at once familiar and strange, playful and haunted, and verging on disaster. In these poems, the body is a working machine, a repository of childhood myth and archetype, and a window to the spiritual world. Here, mother has a reset button, servants blend into the furniture, and a doctor patiently oversees the pregnancy of the earth. Nordgren’s poems are visceral on the level of dream, or of a story that is half remembered and half fabricated.


“Sarah Rose Nordgren’s poems are part science fiction, part surrealism, part Alice in Wonderland and wholly original, playful and personal.”

Ed Ochester

“Sarah Rose Nordgren’s Best Bones is a book rich in architecture and the bones of architecture. She shows us ‘what a long hinge the body makes’—and reminds us that there are indeed ‘stories we live in against nature’ and ‘rooms . . . built from twine.’ The voices and narratives within her poems do more than haunt; they resound, reverberate within and without the lyric enclosures she has made for them. Best Bones is beautiful—a stunning, welcome debut.”

Claudia Emerson

“With her love for fable and folklore, her courting of the uncanny, and her intensive use of dramatic monologue, Sarah Rose Nordgren arrives among us with a minutes-to-midnight voice: stagy, controlling, and quietly alarmed, but always intimate—an indiscreet whisper telling us of events and feelings that we must give ourselves up to totally. Its shadow life glows as keenly as the light, and its light seems almost helpless. A terrific debut by a poet to watch.”

David Rivard

“Startling and alive, Sarah Rose Nordgren’s Best Bones introduces a poet of intense lyricism and narrative compression. These deeply felt poems have an ineffable strangeness yet a sense of rightness. Some terrify like childhood stories. Some amaze like myths. All are beautifully imagined, hauntingly observant, and contain a dynamic tension between the cool surface of craft and the human heat of the heart. Ready yourself, American poetry, for this phenomenal new voice.”

Stuart Dischell

“[Nordgren] writes unflinchingly about self-inflicted violence and women.”

PBS Newshour

“Best Bones is a haunting book that draws on a variety of source material to create a parallel world where even science becomes fairy tale. I feel both at home in and unsettled by these poems, and grateful for the chance to move for a while through their world.”


Best Bones is an absolute must-read. The poems within this collection are thought-provoking, riveting, and haunting—this is not a book that one can read through once and set aside; rather, many poems demand to be read and pondered again and again. These are poems that linger.”

Mid-American Review

“These poems, crisp and lovely in their language, are unwaveringly devoted to charting the strangeness of the female experience.”

Devil’s Lake

“Sarah Rose Nordgren’s Best Bones pulls from both legend and a vivid projections of reality to create a variety of magical realism that proves both self-aware and notably absent, resulting in a gorgeous tonal color that packs enough power to sustain a sinuous, engaging narrative.”

The Adroit Journal

“A uniquely American fairy tale. In these tales, gender, war, religion, and the American South are some of the subjects that children are coming to grips with. When Ed Ochester calls Nordgren’s poems ‘part Alice in Wonderland,’ he gets it just right-their lines remind us that sometimes the kids are in charge, the adults don’t have all the answers, and the moral doesn’t make sense . . . Our worst tragedies and our greatest joys are the interruptions, the realities of life and the morals of stories. Through a series of wondrous, fantastical images, Nordgren conveys unspeakable emotion. We’re transported back to the first time someone stood over us with the offer of only a story, begging us to listen closely.”

Coal Hill Review

“Maps out the voices and shapes that paradoxical loss and freedom can take.”

Story South

“There is a strange feeling as you turn the pages of ‘Best Bones’ by Sarah Rose Nordgren. Something is out of kilter, unorthodox may be the proper term but I do believe original best describes the poetry of Nordgren. She is a narrative poet dwelling equally in the shadows and light of life.”

Fox Chase Review

“It’s rare to discover a collection that is unique in its severity, one that equally makes you cringe and keeps you reading with mutual ease. And [‘Best Bones’], by far, was one of those collections, so much so that I found it difficult to put my admiration into words. Nordgren creates . . . the most beautiful disparate meaning through her pairing of the subtle and the severe. . . . You need to take the time to emotionally invest yourself in these pages. It’s demanding and raw and lovely and is so desperately worth your time. You won’t regret it for a second.”

McKenzie Lynn Tozan