Matthew Brennan (1955- ) taught courses in poetry writing, Romanticism, and literature and the visual arts for 32 years at Indiana State University.  He retired in 2017.  After graduating from Saint Louis University High, he earned a B.A. at Grinnell College and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa.  He then received master's and doctoral degrees from the University of Minnesota, where he taught for a year as a visiting assistant professor before moving to Terre Haute.  He has published nine volumes of poetry, including two chapbooks (American Scenes, 2001, and The Light of Common Day, 2011).  The House with the Mansard Roof  was a finalist for the Best Books of Indiana in 2010.  Snow in New York: New and Selected Poems, which came out in 2021, compiles Brennan's best poems since 1977 and includes more than twenty new poems written since One Life appeared in 2016.  He published his latest collection, The End of the Road, in 2024.

Brennan is also the author of four books of literary criticism and scholarship, most recently The Colosseum Critical Introduction to Dana Gioia (Franciscan University Press, 2020).  A review in Italian Americana praised how "it performs with great distinction the task required of a critical introduciton." A decade before, he brought out The Poet's Holy Craft (University of South Carolina Press), a study of antebellum poet William Gilmore Simms that American Literary Scholarship called "masterly" and Chronicles labeled both "brillliant" and "a magisterial approach to romantic poetry in English altogether."  In 1987 he published Wordsworth, Turner, and Romantic Landscape, followed a decade later by The Gothic Psyche (both Camden House).  TLS said The Gothic Pysche "is written with admirable clarity" and "that the tales Brennan analyses prove remarkably apt for his purposes." 

Brennan has contributed poems and criticism to a host of periodicals and journals: Poetry Ireland Review, Poetry Salzburg Review, Amsterdam Quarterly, Commonweal, South Carolina Review, Valparaiso Poetry Review, Paterson Literary Review, Sewanee Review, The Wordsworth Circle, Georgia Review, South Atlantic Quarterly, Romanticism Past & Present, New York Times Book Review, The Minneapolis Star Tribune, Notes & Queries, Southern Quarterly, Concho River Review, Elder Mountain, Heartland Review, Blue Unicorn, Tipton Poetry Journal, Notre Dame Review, North Dakota Quarterly, THINK, Ekphrasis, Valley Voices, South Dakota Review, Poem, MIssissippi Quarterly, Mississippi Valley Review, Kansas Quarterly, Poet Lore, The Simms Review, CEA Critic, Trinacria, American Book Review, Louisiana Literature, Westview, and others.  His essays are also featured in books such as The Dictionary of Literary Biography (on Ted Kooser), Harold Bloom's edited collection Frankenstein (on landscape and grief in the novel), and The Oxford Handbook to William Wordsworth (on the poet's characters).  In 2009, for Studies in the Literary Imagination, he edited a special issue devoted to Simms.

In 1999 Wendell Berry picked Brennan's poem "The Sublime" as the winner of the Thomas Merton Prize for Poetry of the Sacred, and Brennan has twice received grants from the Indiana Arts Commission.  He was the recipient of the Theodore Dreiser Distinguished Research and Creativity Award in 2002 and has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize multiple times.  Garrison Keillor has three times read Brennan's poetry on NPR's The Writer's Almanac and former U.S. Poet Laureate Ted Kooser has reprinted Brennan's verse in the American Life in Poetry project, which is funded by the Poetry Foundation.

After retiring, Brennan and his wife, Beverley, moved to Columbus, Ohio, with cats Pemba and Baloo.  Besides generating three books since leaving the classroom, he has also edited a collection of his grandfather's writings in the St. Louis Medical Society Bulletin called The Editor's Page.  He remains an avid walker both in the neighborhood and on travels, which a couple times a year take him to Memphis to see son Dan, daughter-in-law Brit, and grandkids Ava and Cannon.


[click once on images to the right to view cover enlargement]

The End of the Road. Kelsay Books, 2024.

Snow in New York: New and Selected Poems.  Lamar U. Literary Press, 2021. 

One Life.  Lamar U. Literary Press, 2016.

The House with the Mansard Roof.  Backwaters Press, 2009.

The Sea-Crossing of Saint Brendan.  Birch Brook Press, 2008.

The Music of Exile.  Cloverdale Books, 1994.

Seeing in the Dark.  Hawkhead Press, 1993.

To order, visit one of the following online bookstores:


"The End of the Road by Matthew Brennan is a poignant collection of poems that delve deep into the human psyche, unraveling emotions, memories, and reflections along the journey of life. Each of his poems invites readers to experience the complexities of existence, touching upon themes of love, loss, resilience, and the inexorable passage of time.  One of the most striking aspects of Brennan’s poetry is its emotional depth. He possesses a remarkable ability to articulate feelings that are often challenging to express, capturing the nuances of joy, sorrow, longing, and hope with a rare authenticity. "

Valley Voices

"In his previous six books Matthew Brennan perfected a distinctive style of lyric realism.  He depicted ordinary scenes which, like a painter, he colored with powerful but unspoken emotion.  His new book, The End of the Road, takes that project one step further.  This volume is not a collection of individual poems so much as an episodic autobiography, a Wordsworthian recollection of his life from his Midwestern Catholic boyhood to his mature years of study, writing, and travel.  I marveled at how beautifully concise these poems are, not one word too many, each line in its place."

Dana Gioa

". . . Snow in New York has some truly great poems.  In this book, Brennan takes his readers on a journey through life and all its losses, both public and personal."

Katherine  Hoerth, The Examiner

"Beyond a career-long consistency of theme, Snow in New York reveals Matthew Brennan's estimable dedication to the craft of poetry.  Against our world's seemingly omnipresent clamor and clang, Brennan has spent the last four decades quietly committed to the creation of accessible, challenging, well-made poems.  His is an admirable legacy, and Snow in New York is that legacy's crown."

C. D. Albin, Concho River Review

"Matthew Brennan's artful, quiet, well-made poems glare with a bright light, burning moments, intense memories.  One Life is a book that surprises and shines."  

Edward Hirsch

"I marvel at Brennan's skill at extended metaphor. . . . Poets will admire Brennan's use of forms, the mathematical beauty of lines and stanza as well as his subtle use of internal rhyme."  

Barry Harris, Tipton Poetry Journal

"Drawing on history, both personal and collective, Matthew Brennan's The House with the Mansard Roof explores how one's present is ever-dependent upon the past.  In his vibrant meditations on objects . . . and their ability to reconstruct and be constructed by memory, Brennan not only recounts what it is to be part of a family, to fall in love, to go through divorce, and to write poetry, but also demonstrates the continuous cultural process that enmeshes humans and their creations."  

Tory Vandeventer Pearman, Southern Indiana Review

"Brennan is a masterful craftsman and his work [The House with the Mansard Roof] is a gift."

Ted Kooser

"Matthew Brennan's The Sea-Crossing of Saint Brendan offers an invention worthy of Borges [and] is an enchanting tale in which the real and spiritual worlds blend as convincingly as its diverse linguistic elements do."

Timothy Steele 

"Brennan's rendering [in The Sea-Crossing of Saint Brendan] uses an adaptation of alliterative meter tempered by some effects of more familiar verse forms.  This achieves a swift-moving and eminently readable text full of concrete details and direct action."

W.D. Snodgrass

"Brendan is a prominent figure in Irish heritage and legend, and, though he is the subject of previous translations, Brennan's [poem] aims to create an incredibly readable version of the poem, similar to Heaney's translation of Beowulf, while remaining true to the Irish form of poetry in Brendan's time, the rosc.  What results is a rhythmic, flowing verse reminiscent of the sea waves upon which Saint Brendan and his small crew sailed."  

Kara McManus, South Carolina Review

"Skilled in his use of figurative language, rhythm, and tone, Brennan has both a precise eye and an attentive ear.  The Music of Exile is a series of nocturnes whose sustained tonalities linger in a haunting manner."

Darlene Mathis-Eddy, Arts Indiana

"[In Seeing in the Dark] Brennan speaks with open emotion and gentle music, transmogrifying the quotidian details which anchor his vision into the more elevated realm of verse."

Robert McPhillips, DLB Yearbook 1994



Selected Interviews and Reviews of Poetry

Mark Bennett. "Ode to Terre Haute: In New Book, Matt Brennan Waxes Poetic on Valley Sites, Legends."  Terre Haute Tribune Star Jan. 6-7, 2024: A1,A4.

Barry Harris.  "Review: The End of the Road by Matthew Brennan." Tipton Poetry Journal 59 (2024): 49-51.

Bryan Monte.  Review of The End of the RoadAmsterdam Quarterly 39 (2024): online.

-----.  Review of The End of the RoadValley Voices 24.1 (2024): x-xx.

Maryann Corbett. "The Measure of Ordinary Days." THINK  12.1 (2022): 111-120.

Jane Blanchard. "Matthew Brennan: Interview." Valparaiso Poetry Review 23.1 (2021-2022): online.

C. D. Albin.  "Review of Snow in New York by Matthew Brennan." Concho River Review 35.2 (2021): 126-129.

Dan Carpenter. "Review: Snow in New York by Matthew Brennan.  Tipton Poetry Journal 49 (2021): 61-63.

Katherine Hoerth.  "Beaumont Book Beat: Snow in New York."  The Examiner 7-13 Oct. 2021.

Barry Harris. "Review: One Life by Matthew Brennan." Tipton Poetry Journal 30 (2016): 68-71.

Joe Benevento. "'An Infinite Number of Things': Older Poets and Their Considerable Legacies" [on One Life]. Green Hills Literary Lantern 27 (2016): online. 

Shawn Bodden. "Review of The Light of Common Day."  Green Hills Literary Lantern 23 (2012): online.

Tory Pearman. "Bringing the Past to Light: Matthew Brennan's The House with the Mansard Roof."  Southern Indiana Review 17.1 (2010): 138-140.

Jerry Bradley. "Review of The House with the Mansard Roof."  Concho River Review 23.2 (2009): 134-135.

Kara McManus."  A Contemporary Lesson in Medieval Literature" [on The Sea-Crossing of Saint Brendan]. South Carolina Review 41.1 (2008): 202-203.

"Review of The Sea-Crossing of Saint Brendan." The Iconoclast 99 (2008): 67.

Kevin Collins. "Interview with Matthew Brennan." Westview  28.1 (2008): 4-8.

David Vancil.  "In Step with Indiana Authors: Featuring an Interview with Matthew Brennan." Indiana Libraries 26.1 (2006): 4-5.

Darlene Mathis-Eddy. "Night Journeys of the Soul" [on The Music of Exile].  Arts Indiana Nov. 1995: 33. 

Robert McPhillips. "The Year in Poetry, 1993" [on Seeing in the Dark]. Dictionary of Literary Biography Yearbook 1994.  Detroit: Gale, 1994. 14-46.

Jean Robertson."Terre Haute's New Press" [on Seeing in the Dark].  Arts Indiana Sept. 1993: 16.





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