Poets have been mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese.
THE FOOL (Big Table Publishing, 2013)
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The Fool takes us to this basic truth, that when we feel most unloved and unlovable, we enter the space of endings and beginnings, the space where we must decide whether or not to believe. This collection of poetry is thus an article of faith, poems that dare us—in unflinching terms—to believe. Jean's poetic emerges in twists of language that hurtle into dangerous places, steep falls and banked curves that bring us back to consider life's vital air and light.
Afaa Michael Weaver, The Government of Nature
Jennifer Jean’s The Fool asks us, 'Aren’t we supposed to see after time spent in the dark?' And blessedly, the answer is yes: so much life goes on to breathe and dwell in this exceptional debut collection: muggy men, hornets, vespers, '…the eyes of these poems black like beetles.' The Fool gives us a world where '…we needed every red-engine knell to slumber…and then we could wake stoked to survive.' This is a poetry that does more than survive in our collective memory: it flashes, it burns.
Aimee Nezhukumatathil, Lucky Fish
When you open Jennifer Jean’s new book The Fool, be ready to travel with her. The title comes from an archetypal figure in the Tarot cards, one typically imagined as a wanderer, someone open to life, needing freedom but perhaps buffeted by it too, a figure not beyond fear, but not afraid of the dark either. These are also the virtues you’ll find in Jennifer Jean's poems. They travel back to a hardscrabble childhood, and forward through a young woman’s coming of age. She also takes us inward via dreams and shape-shifting visions, charting thereby some of the wilder and more difficult areas of the psyche. At each turn of the journey, we accompany a person in the process of acquiring hard-earned and utterly worthwhile spiritual wisdom. In effect, what we witness in these vivid poems is the growth of a soul.
Fred Marchant, Full Moon Boat
The Archivist's taut language reveals the complexity of the human heart. Jennifer Jean has crafted an ambitious narrative of love, family, and the inevitability of human weakness.
Susan Rich, The Alchemist's Kitchen
Jennifer Jean's The Archivist is epic in its scope and daring in its ambition, but conscious of everyday occurrences and small wonders that make our world a place of magic. This collection is a tapestry that displays Jean's lush, inventive version of Biblical history, each poem its own panel of intrigue. The Archivist is not just a series of persona-driven poems, but a courageous exploration of desire set to--and rebelling against--a well-known story. In the words of one poem, '...there is something inimitable/ About joy and reciprocity,/ About this art.'
Mary Biddinger, Saint Monica
The Archivist organizes, preserves and provides access to a world that easily entangles as it delights in its persistence to fill the senses. Jennifer Jean writes 'already, I have filled up every empty jam jar with my supple friends' and she easily could be talking about poetry as art form, which is in full celebration in this wonderful collection.
Enzo Silon Surin, Higher Ground
This is a long lyric about "the fishwife," a shapeshifting marine creature, and the restoration of her maternal lineage. This is also a multi-media venture--it's published as web-based text and audio, MP3, PDF, e-book, CD and in print. There is a music component as well--the instrumental piece, "Begin Beginnings," is composed by Sarah Eide who has been setting other of my "Fishwife Tales" to music.
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What does one make of a childhood in poverty, a childhood haunted by an absent father, a Vietnam veteran? Jennifer Jean's story itself is important to hear. Jean makes the story even more valuable by the craft and perspective in these poem--nothing sentimental, no easy answers. The mix of descriptive and visionary verse enacts the fusion of dreams and reality that are childhood memories. By the end of her odyssey, she has gleaned difficult, startling wisdom: 'If I could take anyone into battle, I'd take/ my kids.' These poems are small steps towards peace.
J.D. Scrimgeour, The Last Miles
The tragic impact of the Vietnam War on an American family preoccupies the poetry of Jennifer Jean. As counterpoint, she writes a series of 'Vespers' in which her strong human spirit asserts itself. Growing up in southern California, Jean's protagonist knows "where there's smoke there's snakes.' Urban and gritty in their perceptions, Jean's poems also convey a disarming gentleness and delicacy. 'My wounds,' she tells us, 'are reliable.' Even so, she makes a choice to live what she calls 'the unhaunted life.' Wounds heal and Jennifer Jean's volume of poems is a testament to that healing.
Claire Keyes, The Question of Rapture
Jennifer Jean's startling poems offer a view of war rarely seen in modern poetics--through the eyes of a child. As the daughter of a Vietnam Veteran, we see firsthand, and in unflinching detail, the collateral damage war creates within the modern family. She's not afraid to examine those fires in childhood most of us are afraid or unwilling to find words for. Jennifer's poems strip us down to the core--in a penetrating, sensitive, powerful, and eloquent language all her own.
January O'Neil, Underlife