Jenne' Andrews is an American poet. She has three published chapbooks including the recent Blackbirds Dance in the Empire of Love, Finishing Line Press 2013.

A full-length collection, Reunion, Lynx House Press, was published in 1983; after a long hiatus to raise Golden Retrievers in Colorado, recent work has appeared in The Passionate Transitory, Belletrist Coterie, The Adirondack Review and Vox Populi, a journal of culture, politics and poetry published and edited by the august Michael Simms.

A bilingual collection of "Italiana," Bocca, Voce, Delirio, with translations by Lorenzo Luciani, will be released by Finishing Line at the end of 2016 and her latest collection, And Now, the Road, a finalist for the Autumn House prize in 2014, will be released by Salmon Poetry Ltd, Ireland, a highly regarded international house, Jessie Lendennie, Publisher, circa 2017.

Andrews holds the MFA in Creative Writing/Poetry from Colorado State University, is a literary fellow of the National Endowment for the Arts, and was full-time Poet in Residence for the St. Paul Schools from '74-78. She lived in St. Paul from 1971-78 during the first wave of the Twin Cities literary renaissance, and spent the summer of 1973 in Reggio Calabria, Italy.

The poet lives in northern Colorado's Poudre River Valley with her husband, fiction writer Jack Brooks; the couple has recently imported two British Golden Retrievers and expects a litter in June-- see the Ardorgold website for details. Contact: jenneandrews2010@gmail.com .

Saturday, August 20, 2011

New Poem - Snafu -- for DVerse Poetics

To participate in the wonderful DVerse Poetry memes, follow the link.  

For me the impasto technique in painting is similar to what I would consider a "pastiche" method in writing a poem-- particularly one with a narrative arc.  The layering of detail--figurative language-- like building up layers of paint, is precisely what imparts depth.  I've sat on this poem for quite some time having a long and hot debate with myself.  As Virginia Woolf wrote, "I have (hopefully)  unburdened myself of my meaning."  xj


Jet said the family was angry—angry that Henrietta’s cells were
being sold for twenty-five dollars a vial, and angry that articles had
been published about the cells without their knowledge. It said,
“Pounding in the back of their heads was a gnawing feeling
that science and the press had taken advantage of them.” 

From The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Rebecca Skloot.

I once imagined I had saved a few of your brain cells.
For many years I was afraid to have them unlocked. 
How much of your coding is mine. 
How much of you am I—

I would have shaken off this heavy
coat of self-doubt but long after you died
I scared myself mad and thought the stars
flashed on the ceiling of my brain;

I lay beneath a table in an abandoned house, weeping.
Someone shouted at me “You are not your mother”
but it was too late; I had taken you in,
cannibalized you, dissected

What I did not consume. Finally I put on my white coat
and took the vial from the refrigerator.  I spread you on the slide
and scrutinized you like a miner looking
for a vein of silver. 

Your cells blinked at me like eyes, accusatory: 
You grave robberI am in the service of science
I told you.  Open your eyes.


I hid from your madness in my room.  I was ashamed
and I broke a pencil writing you a letter you never saw.  
Milton’s God made man from Himself. Not from dust,  
earth, but from God’s own celestial rib.  God wrought code

And built the cell’s housing by starlight.  The scripts
are infinite—this one for a jellyfish, that one for an adder.  
And this one for a mentally ill mother. 
This hieroglyphic, this gone mad dysplastic helix, mutations

Like warped dimes glittering on a glass slide.  A sideshow
for research;  they put you in mice and the mice
hallucinated: they caught glimpses of themselves
In a mirror and consumed each other. We devoured

Each other in this manner.  I ate your DNA and you ate mine. 
I had the blood of the water moccasin and you
the chronic fever of a poet.  I tried to hand back to you
the inherited darkness. The scripted faithlessness. 


If we had indeed harvested a slice of your brain we would perhaps
know of a He-An cell as we know of He-la and Henrietta Lack. 
Yours I believe, would have lived in a vial back in the depths
of a lab in unwilling oblivion, until someone thought to examine

Your brand of madness under a microscope. In that interlude
you would have seen to it that someone heard your mourning,
your cursing at ghosts.  This is what your brain thought
it should do: sing out against inner perpetrators.

What became of the code when electrons were fired into it?
Those shock treatments.  Did it fragment or implode like
an over-turned scrabble board.  O my mother.  My one they
stretched out into a coma and violated with suppositions.

God is, you would mouth, on your knees.  But not-God ruled
our years:  you taunted angels at full voice, at 3 a.m.
My own genetic sheet music, dark with rebellion, shared with Lucifer,
Returned fire, enveloped you like a hawk’s wings.

We sat at a small table, looking at each other.  I could not believe
I was pulled from you wet and writhing, that I began within you.
You wanted a girly girl, an angel, but everything is foreordained
in the cell--  except that in the blink of an eye the code

Misses a step: then cells grow wildly where they should not. 
Wanton malaise comes over the body; Huns in the kidneys, Cossacks
in the liver, infinitesimal materiel multiplying like junkyard dogs
in my cerebellum and yours.  

I made something like a mistake. Ill, I put myself in a nursing home
where you had been, where I saw you alive last. A woman
on the other side of the wall babbled to herself the night long
No one came to her and I could not, so great was the reminding.

I often see you sitting there in a metal chair dressed for church 
waiting for me. I would revive you in some other way, for answers.   
But this is impossible. I write in the wind doing the next thing 
and then the next-- the soul’s stained laundry. A casserole of blackbirds 
calling to the hands, your faux religious fervor au gratin--

I did not mean to refer to you as a pair of eyes.  When I last saw you 
they were mercifully closed, tears at the corners.  Forgiveness 
is slow to leach into my heart from wherever it comes.  


copyright Jenne' R. Andrews   jenneandrews2010@gmail.com


Victoria said...

Oh, my. This left me stunned. Your layering of meaning is so skillful and imparts pain in every image. You are an incredibly talented word-artist. When I read this the novel, "Still Alice," came to mind. Although it deals with early-onset dementia, a lot of the scientific wondering invades that narrative. The author, Lisa Genoa, is a neuroscientist. Thank you for sharing this with us, Jenne.

Beachanny said...

Powerful, hard, well written. Dead mothers haunt us, it's true; not in the way they promised to. We didn't learn them, we didn't become them, but as we age we pierce the veils of their secrets and lies, and pity and try really hard to forgive.

Well done!

hedgewitch said...

Quite an exhaustive, lyrical and light-handed exploration of that bloody no man's land between mother and daughter. You bring a great deal of clarity to a dark emotional argument. The questions you ask here still can't be answered by science, but when that happens we still have poetry.

Anna :o] said...

Very profound stuff and wonderfully done.

Brendan said...

The dissection is raw and real here: where does parent end and child begin? The terrain you elaborately texture is a spiral circle or a labyrinth where the Minotaur is the monster we fear we'll become when we hear that dread echo in our own voice. Great work, Jenne.

Brian Miller said...

still alice was my first thought as well...which is a great book if you have not read it...ugh...your write is definitely evocative jenne...you managed the layer upon layer as well and end up with an incredible piece...

Anonymous said...

Oh my God, Jenne. Oh-My-God. That's all I can say right now, I'm speechless. I have to go read and read and read it because it is that intense, incredible. I'm coming back to comment again on it, I need to absorb. You HAVE TO publish this. You just have to.
Amy Jo

Zoe said...

You create a maelstrom of emotion with this that I will need time to digest. Suffice to say, for now, that the power in these lines is raw, almost overwhelmingly intense and skillfully, oh so skillfully wrought.

Anonymous said...

Be-a-u-tiful! Seriously! I know of nothing else to say. So many images, so many emotions. Simply beautiful. *big hugs*

Rosemary Nissen-Wade said...

An incredible write. Sadly, I can relate quite well

Sharon Rose said...

I am with amyjosprague amazing write! WOW! You are really deeply layered in texture. DEEP DEEP. I just stayed literal and yours is so inspiring.

Anonymous said...

Highly original and profound, I too was stunned by its power.

Natasha said...

Yes...I could have read much more. My eyes and mind were held captivated by every word. Potent write.

Sheila Moore said...

this left me teary eyed and panged with the realization that only those of us who have been there can understand.

at least we have each other. No one individual can claim to be the sole recepient of any experience. I guess this is a good thing.

jen revved said...

I know that this is hard to read in many respects. But I thank each of you for the time you took to do it, for encouraging me. I may send it somewhere-- not sure. Needless to say I have strip-mined this past and writing this poem required that I delve back into it-- but in the story of Henrietta Lacks I felt I had found a way in. xxxxj

amy said...

This poem, first off, is the best poem I'm read I'n a long time--and I read a LOT of poetry. Jenn it's SO original, and I'm so impressed by the balancing of science and fact and almost cool acceptance and a curiosity--when underlying it I'n so many layers there is such a sad, sad grief (I was crying) and this heat. How do you write about madness eloquently?--I wonder that all the time--and you've truly mastered something huge here. Bellevue Lit would take this I'n a heart beat. Submit it submit it! The way you slip from one mental facet into another that's so different that that I'n itself reveals mental illness I'n a whole other layer. Casual, decisive, and then cold facts of heartache and break that seemingly has nowhere to go--until that ultimate ending: "Forgiveness./ is slow to leach into my heart from wherever/ it comes." Wow.