2019 Foreword INDIES Book of the Year Awards Finalist. 2020 Eric Hoffer Book Awards Poetry Finalist.
A Wake with Nine Shades is an exploration of grief and culpability, a Dantean descent through contemporary midlife crisis. Populated by ghosts and children, lovers and amputations, bodies of water, insomnia, debt and domestic violence, Steinorth measures what is broken against the white space of the page, paying homage to the Great Lakes and snowscapes her poems inhabit and the vacancies, denials, and drains they circle. Formally inventive and musically obsessive, the book’s unconventional formal construction and lyric wit contribute what Eleanor Wilner deems the essential “Lightness” described by Italo Calvino, noting Steinorth’s “ability to treat weighty subjects with a mastery of style . . . a liveliness of imagination and intelligence that lightens, without denial, what would otherwise be unbearable. . . .”
JENNIFER SPERRY STEINORTH is a poet, educator, interdisciplinary artist, and licensed builder. Her poetry has appeared in Alaska Quarterly, Beloit Poetry Journal, The Colorado Review, The Journal, jubilat, Michigan Quarterly Review, Mid-American Review, Poetry Northwest, Quarterly West and elsewhere. She has received grants from the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, The Vermont Studio Center, Warren Wilson College where she received her MFA in poetry, and The Bear River Writers’ Conference. In 2016 she was the [email protected] Poetry Fellow selected by Tarfia Faizullah and won the Connecticut River Review Poetry Prize judged by Penelope Pellizon. She is the author of A Wake with Nine Shades (Texas Review Press, 2019) and Her Read (Texas Review Press, 2021).
“‘At the midpoint of the night we were allotted/ I found myself/ in dark apart-ment…’ ‘Sleep rent open/and I poured out.’ Like only the finest poets, Jennifer Sperry Steinorth creates her own revelatory, slant language of the interior, one of disquieting, intimate estrangements, dailiness dispossessed of its easy familiarity, distant atrocities disconcertingly present. The action of her nuanced, unsettling, multivalent lines resembles the wisteria vine on the fixed frame: ‘the living thing/that will pull it down climbing/up…’” —Eleanor Wilner, winner of 2019 Frost Medal for distinguished lifetime service
“A Wake with Nine Shades composes scenes built from a life that moves between the dream world of a somnabulist and the mindful actions that get us through our daily lives, ‘but these dreams!’ Whether arguing with Robert Frost or courting his better angels, Jennifer Sperry Steinorth reveals the neglected sublime that deserves a second look. Frost becomes a metaphor for the complexity of the world we’re trying to make sense of, but she invites us to use all of it—the ‘hard to predict weather,’ discords ‘together, for pleasure,’ and the ‘cheers…through hunger’—to dream more. Indeed, A Wake with Nine Shades is a billet-doux to the world we still fight for and to the better world of which we dream.” —A. Van Jordan
“A lovely debut. These poems haunt with an unflinching attention to a broken world.” —Michael Shewmaker
“Although there is word-play in the title of this book and throughout its alternating brief and densely fragmented poems, the play is dark. This is a book that communicates by impression, more than expression. The impression I get is that of a dance between love and grief. The partners are locked together, bound by a locked language, a shared contrast that cannot be refused. This personal dance is also set against our dark national dance of recent and older history. Yet it’s all happening at once in a timeless blur. And there’s a present audience, who is inclined to see this dance as bitter and beautiful and unavoidable in the same glimpse. This is real and immediate poetry, presented on the page in the moment of its passionate breath. That breath belongs to the world, but it is also starkly human. Though death is a central feature of this book, the poetry is about being alive.” —Maurice Manning