Jennifer Rose Poetry

The Old Direction of Heaven

“In quatrains, sonnets, tercets and blank verse, Jennifer Rose’s subject is how we live in community—with others and with ourselves. One theme that underpins this book is Rose’s search for meaning in a world haunted by war, especially World War II. . . . Hers is a poetics of social engagement and fierce attention to the nuances of human grief, loss, and love.”—Robin Becker

“This is a powerful voice. [Many] poems have that sense of urgency, import, authenticity, that is real poetry—which is whatever has to be said, but said, so that we can bear it, in a formality, in a certainty, and in a song.”—Mary Oliver

“Opening this, Rose’s first book, is a powerful poem in loosely rhymed tercets, ‘At Dachau with a German Lover.’ Refusing ‘to bless a German heaven,’ the poet instead visits Dachau: ‘This is the first time I feel at home / in your country ... // This is my planetarium, these pinned-on stars!’ In Rose’s poems history not only ‘whispers in each soldier’s ear’ but the metaphor of war suffuses a world ostensibly at peace—the island still ‘buried where it fell,’ the squirrel with its tall ‘like a spent fuse,’ the lover who thinks of Dunkirk and bemoans ‘how rarely love sends out its boats like that.’ Although Rose is a prodigious rhymer, often packing her end-rhymed lines with internal rhymes on the same sounds, it is her concentrated, urgent metaphors and similes that most define her poetics. Sometimes she dismantles the conceits she sets up: at the end of ‘The Italian Rose Garden,’ after imagining the pergola as ‘a corridor / less meant for roses than for long queues / of deportees,’ she confronts her own ambivalence toward the garden’s actuality: ‘. . . The rose is neither / a fire engine nor the fire itself. / And neither are the birds’ song sirens.’

“Rose is at her best when personal and public concerns coincide, when the urgency of her imagery is matched by emotional urgency. One of the strongest poems is the sequence ‘Eastham Sonnets,’ where the poet’s ‘romantic weekend’ with another woman turns into a ‘nervous exile’ during which she feels her hold on her lover slipping: ‘. . . You will not take my hand in public / afraid of the fisherman’s reprimand.’

“As with many of Rose’s poems, the ending clinches it: ‘O how I envy the grip of the barnacle / how I envy the handsome fisherman his net.’”—Carol Moldaw

The Quietly Iconoclastic Rose, a review of The Old Direction of Heaven by Scott Ruescher of ArtsEditor 

The Old Direction of Heaven

Price: $15.00
ISBN: 094354923X
Pages: 64
Format: 6x9 Paperback
Publisher: Truman State University Press
Publication Date: 2000
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