The Best Literary Writing About Mothers and Motherhood

The Archivist by Jennifer Jean

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archivist cover picReview by Lynne Shapiro

– Once I got past my initial fear that The Archivist’s subject matter and language was too remote for my taste, I found I had misjudged the book entirely. I couldn’t put it down and read it cover to cover in a single sitting. And read it again.

Jean creates a highly satisfying and complex story about family, youth, desire and love, told with beginnings and begat-ings that is at once ancient and modern. These poems get better and better with subsequent reading as we recognize how deft, precise and musical is the language that creates such nuanced and textured characters as the Patron and Patronne, Olivier, Brule , and Lucia, through whom the narrative comes alive.

I particularly appreciate the cover illustration, which welcomes us into the book, literally heart in hand. Not with a cartoon heart, but an appropriately pulsating, anatomical one befitting characters that are flesh and blood and whose unfolding tale touches on love in all its permutations. The illustrated arteries of the heart make me think about connections, disconnections, roots and branches that change direction and are charged with life. I visualized the heart while reading the opening poem about Lucia, 1. Olivier: Archivist, Son of Leon: “Out of her/eager nerve extremities/onto tightrope absolutes…./Liberated from the electric womb…./Anticipating the feral joy of her bloom as singular/heir to receptivity –”

This ambitious and challenging little book succeeds in opening up a world that has much to offer in both story and poetic craft to anyone who is receptive.

The Archivist
by Jennifer Jean
Big Table Publishing Company Chapbook Series
ISBN 978-0-9830666-5-1   $12  www.bigtablepublishing.com

 


Lynne Shapiro is a writer and teacher who lives in Hoboken, New Jersey. Her work has been included in Eating Her Wedding Dress: A Collection of Clothing Poems (Ragged Sky Press), Pain and Memory (Editions Bibliotekos) and Decomposition, Poems About Mushrooms (Lost Horse Press).

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