Jennifer Jackson Berry
TO KNOW CRUSH
A compelling memoir-in-verse—part love story, part social commentary, part call to action—To Know Crush by Jennifer Jackson Berry tells the full story of fat lives with complexity and humanity. This book calls for radical visibility both by the self and by others by showing how one woman came to see herself as a sexual being, how one coupling stands to upturn all the outside world thinks it knows about who deserves love. With breathless unpunctuated sections addressed to “you,” the love tumbles onto the page, then luxuriates there with bellies described as “the softest pillows in the / house” and libido that “yells for more always & always yells / for more.” This book critiques the healthcare and diet industries, airlines, department stores, pop culture, co-workers and friends—even those purported allies who call fat people brave for simply living their lives. Though years were lost to weigh-ins and misinformed doctors, cruel kids mimicking even crueler adults, ignored erogenous zones and dismissive lovers, anger is tempered with tenderness for and from a man who knows the crush of living in a fat body himself. Rage is merged with head-over-heels happiness. The way that both emotions hold space on these pages is a testament to Berry’s strength as a poet. It is time for her to hold space in the newly emerging canon of fat literature. It is time for her and this book to take up space.
RELEASE DELAYED DUE TO COVID-19 PANDEMIC
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The Feeder by Jennifer Jackson Berry is a book of the body—an unblinking eye, a voice kicking open door after door on hushed topics of infertility, pregnancy loss, and how real bodies, in all their failings and flailings, seek and find pleasure. The poems are as secrets shared between good friends, so raw and dangerous, we can’t look away.
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REVIEW BY THE BIND available here.
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When I Was a Girl is a chapbook for anyone who has ever grown up, and wants to remember with precise, often uncomfortable certainty, exactly what it was like. The poems will unsettle readers, and yet somehow generate nostalgia for the everyday miseries of growing up. Berry is unafraid to be visceral, and she has a knack for being fantastically minimalist. One of the poems is over fifty words long, and yet only uses six different words.
The poems are often breathless, and filled with insatiable urgency. She balances the naivety of youth with the hindsight of adulthood when she writes iconic lines like “I really did know johnny in the summers,” and “stupid were: girls who believed adjectives.”
Berry turns childhood games on their head through her depiction of a young mind struggling to make sense of perceived societal expectations.
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Bloodfish was selected by co-editors Steve Bellin-Oka and Ron Mohring as Number 19 in the Keystone Chapbook Series at Seven Kitchens Press, celebrating the work of Pennsylvania-connected poets.
There are open mouths of fish about to be hooked. There are dreams of abandoned children and too many children falling. There are the brutal losses of the body named in this slender, yet powerful collection.
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