When you read enough of one writer’s work, you will probably notice a recurring theme. Robert Frost had ice, glass, and winter, where Meggie Royer has whale bones and flowers. My latest discovery was that Jeanann Verlee has a startlingly different edge, unique in that it appears in every single one of her poems: she’s got grit, and a whole lot of it. Her book of poetry, “Said The Manic To The Muse,” has been called a “searing exploration,” an elegy, an ode, and all of these accusations are true.
In some cases, the first step in determining whether a book is worth the read is who has published it. The fact that this was Verlee’s second collection to be published by Write Bloody was more than enough to guarantee I’d be blown away. This is a company that has published the work of Khary Jackson, Sierra DeMulder, Taylor Mali, Andrea Gibson, Sarah Kay – need I say more? I consider these poets to be the greats of our time, and Verlee fits in perfectly. Dirty in the way of sharing things we’re often told not to share, her poetry is revealing as well as innovative. I cannot pick a favorite poem, but if I had to, Wherein the Author Provides Footnotes and Bibliographic Citation for the First Stanza Drafted after a Significant and Dangerous Depression Incurred upon Being Referenced as a “Hack” Both by Individuals Unknown to the Author and by Individuals Whom the Author Had Previously Considered Friends(*)(†)(‡)(𝕊) would probably be very near my first pick. The title itself takes up a third of the page, while the body of the poem is ten simple lines riddled with superscripts, followed by four pages of footnotes, complete with its very own bibliography. Aside from being a huge fan of “† Absurdist elongated title style,” I am a huge fan of such creativity. Whoever called Verlee a “hack” should be feeling quite ashamed for inspiring that amount of detail.
The most impressive element here is Verlee’s ability to bare all, every discomfort, regret, and delusion, and bare it skillfully. I have only one problem with her poetry: page 74, line 10 of The Voices, “Maggie thinks you’re a coward.” This is completely untrue. I believe that Jeanann Verlee is one of the bravest, toughest women I’ve ever seen.
Jeanann Verlee will be a featured poet in the Poetry at 1600 Feet series on July 19th! Workshop from 5:30PM to 6:30PM, Performance and Open mic starting at 7PM. Find us on Facebook to stay updated; this is an event you’ll regret missing.