Chelsea Harlan is a person who writes poems. Her work considers the bittersweet beauty of being alive.
She holds a BA in Literature and Visual Art from Bennington College, as well as an MFA in Poetry from Brooklyn College, where she was a Truman Capote Fellow and a Rose Goldstein Scholar, and where she has enjoyed teaching English and creative writing.
Her debut full-length collection, Bright Shade, was selected by Jericho Brown as the winner of the 2022 American Poetry Review / Honickman First Book Prize. Bright Shade is available for purchase from lots of places, best among them directly from APR or from your favorite local bookstore.
Some moons ago she received scholarship to attend the John Ashbery Home School, and she spent one rigorous summer studying landscape architecture at Columbia University. Her chapbook Mummy, written in collaboration with London-based painter Daisy Parris, was released by Montez Press in 2019, and her chapbook Country Music was released in 2021 from Two Plum Press. She received the 2021 Elizabeth Matchett Stover Award from Southwest Review for her poem “Romance Language,” the 2021 Robert Watson Literary Award from The Greensboro Review for her poem “Some Sunlight,” and the 2019-2020 Mikrokosmos Poetry Prize for her poem “Grimaldo’s Chair,” selected by sam sax. Twice named a finalist for Shenandoah’s Graybeal-Gowen Prize for Virginia Poets, her work has been nominated for the Best of the Net and the Weatherford Award (Berea College / Appalachian Studies Association), and she has received perennially generous non-monetary support from the Claytor Nature Center.
She lives in rural Appalachian Virginia, where she was born and raised, and where she works at a small public library.
She serves as a poetry reader for Raleigh Review.
Selected by Jericho Brown as the winner of the 2022 American Poetry Review / Honickman First Book Prize, Bright Shade is an appreciation of the wild woods, the rolling hills, the Appalachian air, and the little rivers that were the setting of Chelsea Harlan’s upbringing. The poems speak through the liminal space between the body and its relationships to other bodies, and the human relationship with nature—and so climate change is, inevitably, part of this book’s undercurrent of grief. As the author navigates the high highs and the low lows of delight and despair, Bright Shade articulates the wonder that accompanies sadness and the sadness that accompanies joy. Chelsea Harlan’s work is as melancholic as it is humorous, indeed bittersweet, and a little bit strange in exactly the right way.