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Formats
Paperback Details
  • 11/2021
  • 978-1-59948-890-5
  • 79 pages
  • $15.00
Jennifer Markell
Author
Singing at High Altitude

Adult; Poetry; (Market)

In Singing at High Altitude, Jennifer Markell asks us to love the world in all its brokenness, and offers us a way to do so, with “lucent sight.” Through the author’s keen attention to detail, we are invited to enter the sky’s “blue manifesto.” Here, beauty may be found in a fledgling bird’s last moments, a “courtyard glittered with fallen limes,” or with trash collectors who swing the barrels like “dance partners.” These poems arise in darkness and take wing.
Reviews
This soulful collection from Markell (Samsara) touches on complex opposing themes, often eliciting both despair and joy simultaneously. The selections consider experiences like living in poverty, pummeled by a broken society, and overwhelmed by emotions and loss, while always appreciating the inherent beauty within simple moments, such as in one of the earlier pieces, “Rent Control.” Markell proves adept at weaving tapestries of figurative language to form a tangible scene, dropping the reader into a somber hospital room filled with flowers in “Leaf Litter,” a sunny “July” in the sand dunes with someone special, or the silent gathering of out-of-work men praying for opportunity in “The Men,” a striking portrait of active helplessness: “Cigarettes idle. They twirl rosaries / and radio dials, chew a cud of worry.”

With exacting clarity, Markell often intermingles painful themes, such as childhood violence at the hands of a physically abusive parent, with the lilting splendor of nature: “startles an osprey from its perch, / distracting the girl’s mother, / hand raised, ready to hit.” Domesticity and maternal strife are featured as well, as a discordant mixture between comfort and fear, as in the wrenching “Superpower,” in which she writes, “My mother slapped my face / while she stood over the kitchen sink / doing dishes.”

On occasion, Markell’s poetry can edge toward ambiguity, which may make it a challenge for some readers to apprehend the collection’s organizational logic, though the consistent strength of her linework is a powerful throughline. Simply put, a reader can flip through the pages at random and stumble upon any number of charming (“My Mother Tells Me my Father was no Good in Bed” opens with “Who really wants to know / how they got made?”) or haunting poems, pinning down with quiet precision feelings and insights. While Markell never shies away from the difficulties of life, she reminds us that in partnership with the ugliness there is always splendor–and that “Hope rests on the roof.”

Takeaway: These strikingly original poems pin down everyday hope and despair with exacting precision and power.

Great for fans of: Gail Mazur, Sandra Storey.

Production grades
Cover: A-
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A

Formats
Paperback Details
  • 11/2021
  • 978-1-59948-890-5
  • 79 pages
  • $15.00

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