#TPQ5: JILL MCELDOWNY

Lord of Misrule – Jamie Gordon

Lord of Misrule is probably my favorite book of all time. I read this book as an undergrad and loved it first for it’s description: “phantom horse, twisted together in the Devil’s workshop out of abortionists’ black wire hangers…” (I mean come. on.) But now, I can appreciate this book for both its world building and structure. Gordon’s craft is impeccable. Moments of stark violence contrast with startling beauty that create unsettling tension from the very first page.

The Secret History – Donna Tartt

I always recommend this book. Tartt possess a unique ability to draw her reader completely into the intellectual space of her characters. I think it’s a rare ability to make your reader trust your characters when they make such grand proclamations such as: “beauty is terror.” I not only believe the modern Greek tragedy that unfolds but wish I was a part of it.

Blood Dazzler – Patricia Smith

Smith’s book of poem narrates the before, during, and after of Hurricane Katrina. The narrative sequence is brilliant in its minute by minute feed beginning w the formation of the storm and ending with utter annihilation. I love persona poems and to watch Smith inhabit so many spaces in this book–the dying trapped on rooftops, drowning trapped in their bedrooms, New Orleans, the hurricane itself–is such a privilege.

Asylum – Quan Barry

I love the dichotomy of tenderness and fierceness in this book. This book taught me the importance of questioning in poetry and how the presence of questions can create vulnerability in the speaker. A speaker can be both vulnerable and determined. The pieces that quote “The Thin Red Line” at the very end are some of my very favorite poems.

The Collected Works of Billy the Kid – Michael Ondaatje

My favorite aspect of this book is its commitment to the voice and execution of the characters. As I said, I love persona poems and while the story of Billy the Kid is rooted in reality, Ondaatje builds upon the story to create a tension between past and present. There is a flash piece in this book about a cowboy inbreeding mad dogs that haunts me–Ondaatje writes work that stays with you.


Jill Mceldowney is the author of the chapbook ‘Airs Above Ground’ (Finishing Line Press) as well as ‘Kisses Over Babylon’ (dancing girl press). She is a founder and editor of Madhouse Press. Her previously published work can be found in journals such as Muzzle, Prairie Schooner, Vinyl, Fugue and other notable publications.

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