“Dispatch from an Inland University” by Jen Jabaily-Blackburn

Ekphrastic Challenge, May 2018: Editor’s Choice


Message in a Bottle by Jen Ninnis

Image: “Message in a Bottle” by Jen Ninnis. “Dispatch from an Inland University” was written by Jen Jabaily-Blackburn for Rattle’s Ekphrastic Challenge, May 2018, and selected as the Editor’s Choice.

[download: PDF / JPG]


Jen Jabaily-Blackburn


First thing they do:
they rust
the bright out of you.

Your uniform almost
a tourist’s,

to minimize joy.
You’re rewired, and then
to imagine

you don’t know it,
you dirty bomb, you,
excites them.

A hand raised up
to the ear
mimics boredom.

They are so pleased
to be launched
ahead like this,

so delighted to play
sailor, to lay
groundwork. So charmed

to be met, to get to speak
and speak and wait
for no reply.

from Ekphrastic Challenge
May 2018, Editor’s Choice


Comment from the editor, Timothy Green: “I fell in love with this poem after reading just the first three lines—the enjambment, the image, the rhythm, the rhyme. A poem doesn’t have to be quotable to be great, but what a great quote! And then I also loved the way the poem doubles-down on the painting’s despair—even a hopeless message in a bottle is a fantasy so far from the sea. The rest of the poem is intimately ambiguous in its self-dialogue, and feels like a real window into the speaker’s thoughts. Is the mood a over-indulgent melodrama, comically self-aware, or is it expressing a genuine melancholy? Either way, the poem reminds me of times when it’s all of that at once, before closing with another great stanza that lives up to the promise of the first.”

Rattle Logo