Given Away by Jennifer Barber

$16.95

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$16.95, 6 x 9", 80 pages, perfect bound
ISBN 978-1-888553-56-7

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Jennifer Barber’s Given Away views the contemporary world through the lens of Biblical psalms, the natural world, medieval history, and spiritual dimensions of lightness and darkness. The poems here travel from cities in Southern Spain to rural New England. Her lyrical meditations on the soul illuminate the process of searching for a self that may already be “given away” in the smallest of moments, like “light slanting through the trees.” 

Praise for Given Away

Jennifer Barber’s perceptions are so specific and surprising in these beautiful and rigorous poems, her diction and music so pure, her rhetoric so without excess or self-congratulations that her discipline as an artist seems supernatural. Stunning verbal artifacts, human in scale, are made vast, spiritualized by their implications. Vijay Seshadri

Whether striking a ‘blue-yellow hood’ of flame from a wooden match, or scattering Ezekiel’s coals over the city to ‘sow the light of reckoning,’ Jennifer Barber’s poems are small, deft psalms, large in spiritual scope. She celebrates elementals: water and salt, darkness and light, silence and utterance, in an art of delicacy, quiet, and
precision. —Rosanna Warren

The speaker of these poems exists in a state of longing that resembles prayer. She announces that this is ‘the first day of the world’ and we know we are in divine presence. But it is not God or even god, but rather the search, the idea, the ‘light slanting through the trees’ that touches us. The book begins and ends with August—a year passed, a lifetime evolved. —Pam Bernard

The skill of versification in these poems is what makes us hear them—and what we hear gives pleasure, even when it’s dark. Barber’s poems have a tragic grandeur. Natural description exhibits poise and tensile strength: ‘I don’t know/whether the freckled light//has swallowed the white arms//of the birch tree whole/or if the birch is light//bending the end of summer through its leaves.’ This is beautiful work. — David Ferry

Excerpt from Given Away

[ G a t e ]

Yesterday the clothesline

crashed to the ground

in wind, the rain gave way

to a finer grade of rain

dissolving the bay. I saw

a stonechat at the feeder,

a coal tit, a goldfinch, a wren,

a splash of sun

on the soaked fuchsia.

A giant arm, invisible,

forked a cloud from the mountain

to the beach and back.

Unlatching the gate, I heard

seven abundant years

followed by seven lean

in the ruined houses on the hill.

—excerpt from the poem “Achill Island Fears”

Jennifer Barber

Jennifer Barber attended Colby College in Maine and studied medieval literature in England as a Rhodes Scholar. She received her MFA from Columbia University. A selection of her work appears in the anthology Take Three: 3, Agni New Poets Series (Graywolf Press, 1998); a selection also appears in the anthology Four Way Reader #2 (Four Way Books, 2001). She has…

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