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Jenny George

Visiting Poet

Jenny George

When asked about the core questions at the heart of her beautiful and acclaimed debut collection, Jenny George writes, “The inquiry in these poems is shaped by the question: How much of our aliveness can we bear?  Another way of asking that is: How much of our own capacity for violence must we tolerate in order to be fully awake?”

Judge of the 13th Annual Poetry Prize for High School Girls, George’s resonant language reveals vivid, multi-layered narrative and descriptive worlds. She crafts elaborate, intimate dreamscapes, writing about touch in “The Miniature Bed” as “opening the dark, / like a match, the sun’s flaring.”

“My job,” George declared in a recent interview, “is the human job of waiting and listening, and language is just what poets use—like wind chimes—to catch the sound of the larger, more essential thing. Wind chimes themselves are not the point. The point is the wind.” That patient waiting and listening results in meticulously honed poems that Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Rita Dove has praised for their “exquisitely spare meditation.”

Jenny George is the author of The Dream of Reason (Copper Canyon, 2018), and has been the recipient of numerous awards, including a “Discovery” / Boston Review Poetry Prize, and fellowships from the Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Fund, the MacDowell Colony, the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference and Yaddo. Her work has appeared in Beloit Poetry Journal, Ploughshares, Narrative, Cimarron Review, and The Collagist, among others. George holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where she serves as program coordinator for the Hidden Leaf Foundation, a Buddhist-based social justice organization.

Select Poems

I forgot the prairie because it stood 

so still. I forgot the clouds because

 they were always moving. I forgot

the taste of water because it lay quietly

 inside the taste of everything.

I forgot a childhood when it disappeared 

through a hole in itself. Later, mushrooms

emerged from the damp soil.

The way to keep something is to forget it. 

Then it goes to an enormous place.

Grass grows to the horizon like hair.

In the sky the clouds go on naming

and unnaming themselves.

There is a hole.

In the hole is everything

people will do

to each other.

The hole goes down and down.

It has many rooms

like graves and like graves

they are all connected.

Roots hang from the dirt

in craggy chandeliers.

It’s not clear

where the hole stops

beginning and where

it starts to end.

It’s warm and dark down there.

The passages multiply.

There are ballrooms.

There are dead ends.

The air smells of iron and

crushed flowers.

People will do anything.

They will cut the hands off children.

Children will do anything—

In the hole is everything.

Before the insects start to grind their million bodies,

before impulse scatters the deer into the trees,

before desire:

there’s a rest.

The dawn and the day observe each other.

The herd begins to move over the field, one shared dream

of grass and wind.

The small stones of their hooves in the stony field.

I’ve exhausted my cruelty.

I’ve arrived at myself again.

The sun builds a slow house inside my house,

touching the stilled curtains, the bottoms of cups

left out on the table.

About Jenny

Poetry Center Reading Dates: April 2019