The Desert Nights, Rising Stars
Writers Conference

Photograph of Jenny Irish

Jenny Irish

NEA Big Read Partner 2021
Desert Nights, Rising Stars Faculty 2020, 2021

About Jenny Irish

Jenny Irish is from Maine, but lives and teaches in Arizona. She is the author of the collections Common Ancestor and I Am Faithful.

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More About Jenny Irish

---. "Excerpt from I Am Faithful." 2019.

There is, I think, an assumption of malice when we hear a story like that. But, what if it were only matter-of-fact? Like, there’s a kind of man who shoots a dog, because a dog is a dog. He’s the same man who drowns newborn puppies by the sack-full every spring then ticks it from the list of chores in his head. He’s seen the public service announcements: Spay and neuter your pets. But, he doesn’t have pets. He has dogs. He’s the same kind of man who is superstitious of bodies opened and altered. He doesn’t say so—he wouldn’t say so—but he believes the medical-arts to be a sort of dark magic. Doctors make him sweat. He’s a man who doesn’t admit to fear, and so when he is afraid he is angry. He’s the man who dies of a slowly consuming cancer, an abscess left to fester. He’s the man taken down by a clogged valve in his heart, thirty slow years in the making. That kind of man: he’s a tough old bastard, but he’s never meant any harm. On the anniversary of his death, his sons drink, because their father was a tough old bastard and they hated him, but he never meant any harm, and they loved him too.

Welcome back, Jenny Irish!." Black Lawrence Press  

As a writer, I’m interested in respectfully and honestly depicting the experience of the working, lower class. The working class, I think, is too often depicted in stereotypes that gloss over the complexities of human experience and are ignorant to the effects of multigenerational poverty. To live under constant financial strain is to live in a state of uncertainty that breeds not only anger, desperation, fear, and resentment, but also possibility, gratitude, and hope—a reality I try to capture throughout the stories in I am Faithful.


Hogue, Cynthia. "Common Ancestor By Jenny Irish." 2017.

Jenny Irish’s scintillate debut collection of prose poems, Common Ancestor, is an awe-inspiring read. From the confident power of its narratives to the hurricane-force language of its vision, this poetry’s riveting. In two dramatic personae series of gorgeous, near-gothic detail, Irish looks at all the havoc humans wreak and does not blink. She scrutinizes violence with rare sangfroid, and though never moralizing, leaves us in little doubt of the moral center of her universe: “Metal is not guilty for what it does in man’s hands, absent of soul,” as one poem puts it. In lines laced with brilliant figure and sly internal rhyme, Irish’s poetry is charged by truth’s searing song.