Jubilat 21 is an eclectic issue packed with both surrealism and honesty, insight and fun. I’ve always loved jubilat for the bold, inventive work it features, and this issue is no exception.
Oddly enough, I think my favorite piece in the issue is an essay by Lee Ann Roripaugh called “’Poem as Mirror Box: Mirror Neurons, Emotions, Phantom Limbs, and Poems of Loss and Elegy.” I say oddly enough because I’m comfortable enough with myself to admit that I often skip over essays about craft—not because I don’t care about craft, but because they’re often dry and, dare I say, pretentious. But I’ve read Roripaugh’s essay five times, and I’m not only continually intrigued with her proposition but moved by her writing.
The essay explores the link between mirror neurons—which, Roripaugh writes, “not only explain a lot about how our bodies learn to perform both simple and complex physical tasks but are also crucial with respect to our emotional and psychosocial functioning”—and the art of creating images in poems of loss or grief.
Roripaugh posits in her essay that poems of “loss and elegy” function much the same way a phantom limb does—they create haunting, “unnerving, even painful or burning, physical images and sensations for the speaker of the poem…” Using examples from the work of Anne Sexton, Yusef Komunyakaa, Susan Slaviero, and, my favorite, Li-Young Lee, Roripaugh takes the reader through her hypothesis one elegy at a time in a way that is insightful, intriguing, and easy to agree with.
Of course, the poetry and prose in the issue was just as thought-provoking and evocative. I was (and still am) especially captivated by Francesca Chabrier and Emily Hunt’s “Sorry David David I Am So Sorry,” an eccentric, pleasantly baffling visual collaboration. Comprised of eight pages of abstract doodles, the text of the piece reads like off-the-cuff interpretations of each drawing. Captions like “the lung like a lily . . . / blooms on the head of another mother / watch out / for the tail end / of the road some people / be playin dominos,” left me simultaneously amused, elated, and confused—and I love it.
Other highlights in the issue included two quirky, inventive one-act plays by Nick Lantz that both end as startlingly as they begin. I also enjoyed Hannah Gamble’s “Somewhere Golden,” a lovely, stream-of-consciousness rant that begins with the narrator cleaning herself up in a bathroom at a party and ends beautifully with a “priest who wears soft shoes . . . stooping at times / to pick up flowers.”
But Jericho Brown’s “Obituary” may be my new favorite poem of the moment. The imagery is so vivid and vibrant it’s hard to pick an excerpt to share here, but I’ll start with the beginning:
Say I never was a waiter. Say I never worked
Retail. Tell the papers and the police, I wrote
One color and wore a torn shirt. Nothing
Makes for longevity like a lie, so I had a few
Fakes and stains, but quote me, my hunger
Was sudden and wanting . . .
The poem goes on to discuss snow that “didn’t fall by the foot in a day,” “Derrick Franklin, gift of carnelian, / Lashes thick as a thumb,” and “A smile / That would shine like the last line of cocaine.” Together these images create an “Obituary” that I’m sure we all would like to see written about ourselves—full of life and love, a lot of honesty and a couple of exaggerations. It’s definitely a piece that moved me and opened up my imagination. I’m not sure you could ask more of a poem.
Overall, there are so many standout pieces in this issue, I feel a little guilty for only writing about a handful. Each page of this issue contains something noteworthy and surprising. All of the writing in the issue is well-crafted and worth reading and re-reading. It’s great to see jubilat continually living up to its reputation for providing a platform for solid, innovative, expressive work.