September 5, 2021

Jennifer Reeser


You near and wave the wan evacuees
enough to get them back to Jackson Square
with bellies full of bagels and cream cheese.
The sweat-soaked husband can’t return your stare,
their compact packed to bursting with the most
his wife and kids were able to finagle
before the hurricane could hit the coast.
But gas is choice as gold, and that cheese bagel
is higher than when you and I were stranded
in similar surroundings. We just hope
his damage doesn’t match what we were handed.
The hardest part is how we watch him mope,
and pass the bland, non-Cajun styrofoam
container through her window, heading home.

from Poets Respond
September 5, 2021


Jennifer Reeser: “Having lived through emergency evacuations, I know that worse than feeling trapped in your circumstances with few ways out, is feeling trapped in your circumstances, with no way out at all. Here is one account of my experience from the outside, looking in.” (web)

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July 5, 2020

Jennifer Reeser


A massive star without a trace
    Has died away, as most things must.
No fond farewell for us from space,
    A massive star without a trace
Distills the skill to self-efface.
    Black hole? Dimmed in a cloud of dust?
A massive star without a trace
Has died away, as most things must.

from Poets Respond
July 5, 2020


Jennifer Reeser: “This news story appeared about a distant star which has quietly disappeared from view, for no clear reason. I was captivated by the blue luminosity, and the mystery, and the loss.” (web)


Join us this morning for Poets Respond Live! Click here to watch …

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May 27, 2019

Jennifer Reeser


As I unload each shifting, fertile clod
upon her pale remains, their thudding sound
brings to mind the pounding of that sod
upon my mother’s final resting ground.
Mother Earth, obliging, falls apart
for me. I see, instead of her I bested,
that sweet, blonde thief who cut my mother’s heart,
the one whom—all my life—I have detested.
What were the odds, that I could shoot ahead
of her, this daughter of the Nordic gods?
This educated harlot once struck dread
within me—puzzlingly. What were the odds?
If I can leave the thrill of her foul mouth
filled with my Mother’s milk, I’ll migrate south …

from Rattle #63, Spring 2019
Tribute to Persona Poems


Jennifer Reeser: “I write a considerable amount of poetry in ‘assumed’ voices. Strong Feather is an American Indian character of my own creation, the center of a collection recently completed, by the same name. I have written these in order to create a new kind of poetry, which gives voice to a long-overlooked—and under-represented—point of view, in a style which has not heretofore existed in literature.” (web)

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March 9, 2018

Jennifer Reeser


translated from an ancient Cherokee shaman’s formula, recorded by A Yu I Ni, “He Who Swims”

Ha! Listen! Now, you’re coming into rut,
And I am vastly apprehensive, but
You follow on the course your wife takes, merely.
And I have pointed out her footsteps clearly.
Observe them going upward to the sky.
The paths, in your possession there, will lie
Without disturbance. Let your passage seize
The lofty mountains, and the tops of trees.
Listen! Let your walkways, as they go
Along, meet where the waving branches blow.

from Rattle #58, Winter 2017

[download audio]


Jennifer Reeser: “I am a bi-racial writer—Anglo-Celtic and Native American Indian. By translating this poem, I hope to bring more attention, to a wider audience, the profound heritage and creative arts of the ancestors to whom I owe my life. This language and culture being an under-represented ‘endangered species,’ also, I hope to be the curator who treats her ‘creature’ to a beautiful setting, contributing my gift from the Creator towards the communal good, benefiting the ‘tribe’ of all Humanity, and uniting the two ‘half-breed’ sides of myself, bringing them together in harmony, into the Great Circle.” (web)

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August 22, 2017

Jennifer Reeser


The evidence, for me, lies in the pains
Displayed upon their furrowed, worried faces
As I explore the corpse, but find no traces,
Tasked with analyzing the remains.

Hold it together, Doctor, keep your cool.
Here comes the part no scientist enjoys:
“These skeletons are not your missing boys
Exhumed at Richard Henry Indian School.”

I feel I lack—like them—the heart, the liver,
Life-granting, vital fluids—bile and gall;
No word of cure nor ceremonial shawl;
Removed, returned, re-buried at Wind River.

from Poets Respond


Jennifer Reeser: “This poem is an empathic exploration of one anthropologist’s feelings, having to break the news that, although two Native American boys have been returned to their families for burial, the third missing boy remains lost.” (web)

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July 10, 2012

Review by Jenn RuckelSonnets from the Dark Lady by Jennifer Reeser

by Jennifer Reeser

Saint James Infirmary Books
ISBN-13 978-0615589503
2012, 148 pp., $13.48

Compelling and metrically confident, Jennifer Reeser’s third book is a compilation of twenty-seven poems written from the perspective of the Dark Lady to whom Shakespeare addresses sonnets 127–152. The rest of the book–seventy poems in all–touches on a variety of subjects, from translations of Baudelaire to lyrical love poems and even poems to the author’s cat, with Reeser’s poems on New Orleans’ French Quarter especially memorable. The winner of Word Press’s first book prize and a widely published poet in formalist circles, Reeser offers surprising language and an often playful tone in this accessible, engaging collection.

Following an epigraph from Heraclitus, “Blind Concessions” presents a striking portrait of the Sibyl. Although working now at a pastry stand, she still sees much, despite her blindness, and the poem explores the extent of this sensitive perception: “[A]s motions go, / hers have the kind of clarity the seeing / could envy: that excess, that overflow / inherent in the bearing born of being.” This Sibyl does not need ordinary vision to function in the world or to perceive what lies beyond it. Here, too, Reeser demonstrates her talent for vivid, fresh description, her ability to condense an image to its essentials within meter and rhyme’s constraints: “Sightless Sibyl at the pastry stand / wears white, and with a checkered terry towel / wipes down the counter with one wrinkled hand.” A few lines are all Reeser needs to provide insight into a character or moment.

Elsewhere, Reeser draws from literary forebears. In “because the cut your presence,” for example, Reeser adopts the typography and techniques of e.e. cummings, experimenting with form and unconventional syntax. From her first two lines–“because the cut your presence is to ache / to ache {oh no one else no no one none}”–Reeser uses punctuation and repetition to create a forceful rhythm that pushes the poem forward. Much more than a formal experiment, the poem traces how hearts may break so beautifully–how pain and love overlap in many relationships. Through wit and honesty, Reeser achieves insight into human experience and emotional ambivalence.

Of course, the collection’s title makes Reeser’s “Dark Lady” sequence the central focus of the book. In these poems, the poet uses archaic language in a way that reflects reverence for the original text of Shakespeare’s sonnets, while introducing new life and a new intensity to an established style. Her sonnets in the persona of the Dark Lady offer a direct response to Shakespeare, utilizing the same techniques Shakespeare himself was famous for–his wit and ability to distill complex thinking into just a few words–but with a female perspective. In the neat quatrains of her reply to “My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun,” Reeser observes, “No braggart sagas follow his devotions; / His myths are masked, reported visions few,” thus providing the lover’s view of the man who courted her. The Dark Lady observes further:

Many a diva gets her burning word,
Chocolate oblations brandied, blessed, hot-toddied.
I have for heat the hidden and unheard,
An incandescent, backwards disembodied,
And would — for naught and nothing — make a trade
For pageants staged within him, well-displayed.

Here, Reeser imagines the Dark Lady’s response to what Shakespeare was writing about her. She does not want the “pageants staged within him,” as Shakespeare himself did not want anything other than the Dark Lady’s true self in his original; yet she also acknowledges the power of what is not seen: herself, the lady literally in darkness, and those passions that she conceals (except in private) but which remain “incandescent.” In this sequence, and in the rest of her extensive, wide-ranging collection, Reeser ably demonstrates why she is one of the most admired of today’s younger poets writing in rhyme and meter.


Jenn Ruckel is an English/writing major at Loyola University Maryland. She can be contacted at:

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