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The Best Word for the Job of Mourning by Jessica Baron

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The Best Word for the Job of Mourning Jessica Baron BlazeVOX [books]

 I’m always amazed at writing, and poetry in particular, that strives to speak directly the unsayable—madness or dream, call me a sucker. Perhaps, though I do not know, the things we know are the things that we don’t, that we keep learning, until we see what’s important slipping further away—what we knew all along we’d been taking for granted. The inevitable appears and, facing this, we apologize, and know it is nothing. Weeks arrive in that space, not knowing where they end, routine turns the measurement, and what you can do, despite all you do, is but watch: “To break down the body’s organs / one by one / as such attacks go / death toll was minor.” The excruciating slowness of this disappearing is not sublime. We’ll attend the other’s journey. Abject smallness, Jessica Baron’s The Best Word for the Job of Mourning and yet, obligation, responsibility, greater focus, this can open (it doesn’t always) like nothing else the possibility of settling ones debt—the whole impossibility of it—of comforting what did comfort—impossible, we do the work, all in spite of oneself. Not triumph, but something like it, and incoherent, we grope for our best way to fail: “pink new and sealed by imperfection.” In short, I guess, books are common. Many of them are smart. Books are gifts. But a book that is the giving of the gift; these are rare. Jessica Baron gives us one such book. 


Jared Schickling, Author of Aurora (BlzeVOX, 2007) and Submissions (BlazeVOX, 2008)

Jessica Baron realizes mourning’s best words refuse their own elegiac nature. In her long sequence death is present not as a shadowy realm from which the loved one will be recalled by the poet’s words; in this poetry death is a place of honest witness. That honesty, that death-bed honesty, is an inclusive one. Mourning here is no excuse to enter into the private self that sorrows, but more astonishingly, and more accurately, opens us to the world, removes boundaries that keep separate different aspects of life. Here death knocks down doors. There are the chores, there is the news, and death is what reminds us that we pay attention even when that capacity feels impossible. It is a way to honor the one dying—to note the world keeps interrupting death with its own impossible fact: here it is, here we are, that (as Jessica Baron says) “here I am. Taste.”

Dan Beachy-Quick, Author of A Whaler’s Dictionary (Milkweed Editions, 2008) and This Nest, Swift Passerine (Tupelo Press, 2009)

Words, says Beckett, are underlined with silence. Baron urgently impels us to perform an archeology of "mourning," and in so doing, to mourn with, for, and against the word, to rehearse the absence of any singular vocabulary that will do the work needed. To mourn is to act, and with Mallarmean strophic bursts, subtle clefts of negative space followed by litanies and lists and dissolving gestures and anxious searchings, the act is the appearance of its opposite, stillness. And here, in Baron's work, we sense that no matter the gesture, all is potentially excess, or inertness, in the job of addressing the terrible-ineffable. Via such careful maneuvers, Baron's The Best Word for the Job of Mourning turns reader into worker. We are both witness to and actors in the rehearsal of mourning, wherein page by page, each itself a day or an hour or a lifetime, words, or, for Beckett, memories, "are killing." 

Baron's The Best Word for the Job of Mourning complicates any understanding the reader may have of new lyricism: "Hold on to...small seemingly...lines I cultivate disappearing" follows “There’s something I’m supposed to be saying,” calling into question the distinction between the said and the written, the tonality of the upper register and the drumbeat of the colloquial, within the context of eulogy. The Best Word is falling houses and waterlogged instruments, submerged sound and wet score, air filling lungs for a last time in a struggle to empty all but the word: "Here's a clue: Information has become too scarce." With the self-conscious music of lamentation as script-fragment, we are compelled to act out in its double sense, repeatedly, the search for the right word. Countless dead and what, Baron implies, could possibly be a vocabulary of such catastrophic and idiotic loss? Language has failed us, yet we must go on. If we are a "we," we will find the space between us to be vast enough to cause a graven silence. In so few words, Baron gives us the dialectic of inner and outer, personal and sociopolitical, a poetics of disavowal, disavowal of language via language, wrapped up in a faith in the ritual of rehearsal, where by beginning again and again, the lost thing just might return, transfigured, perhaps so much that it is unrecognizable, but returned to us nonetheless. This is a quietly eviscerating, astonishingly unsilenced debut from a poet who deserves our immediate, and careful attention.

David Wolach, Editor of Wheelhouse Magazine and Author of Fractions of M (Trainwreck Press)

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Jessica Baron’s poems have appeared in Wheelhouse, Matter, Parcel, Reconfigurations, and Mrs. Maybe, among others. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Colorado State University and a BFA in Theatre Studies from Southern Methodist University. She lives in the high mountains of southwestern Colorado with her husband and their cat. In the thin air, she writes and performs in repertory theatre.

Book Information:

· Paperback: 32 pages
· Binding: Perfect-Bound
· Publisher: BlazeVOX [books]
· ISBN: 9781935402442

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