Merry Xmas, Headless Mama Returns, & Stranger Things

“O burst O pop O clank
O fuck my swollen bell of  brain. If no candles light
when we scratch the match, has God forsaken?”

(You can read the whole poem here, online at the POETRY Foundation).

Stranger Things Xmas lights Ouija (2)

As a mama poet, I struggle sometimes with feeling less important or relevant or current than if I were writing about other than my experiences raising my children & healing my childhood wounds as I usher my loves through this world, & together we build altars & lay to rest old wounds as we raise the dead into this living & our arms to whatever praise we can find.

I know deep in my heartgut that mama poems are damn important and culturally/socially/emotionally relevant, and I’m so grateful, always, for readers who see/feel the truths my family & I offer in my work. But sometimes when the accolades seem ever evasive & the funds dry up, I forget. In my exhaustion & fear & dailiness, I forget.

This month though, I’ve had the deep joy of publishing my newest work “Headless Mama Returns [Xmas 19 Redux]” in POETRY, my dream magazine, and recording the poem & process for their podcast (you can listen to it at the POETRY Foundation, here). I’m listening to it now, & hearing venerated, respected, wonderfully empathetic poet & editor Don Share talk about the ways in which my poem short-circuits the cultural detritus surrounding our myths about the holiday season & gets to the necessary marrow of mothering — well my mama heart couldn’t be any brighter, even through trauma-induced & seasonal depression, even through difficult suicidal ideations & the deep physical and emotional pain of chronic illness, the Universe/God has reminded me of the importance of my work here, & I couldn’t be more grateful.

Thank you, all, loves, & I hope you’ll take a listen & share. xoJenn

p.s., I discuss STRANGER THINGS in this podcast, as this poem was inspired by my investigation into the Upside Down of this show I adore, which I liken to duende & the underbelly & the hero’s journey — & I’m teaching this, my favorite workshop, online this coming January 2020 through The Poetry Barn. xoxo

Rosa’s Einstein (Camino del Sol Poetry Series)

rosa's einstein update

Available from University of Arizona Press (30% off with code AZFLR)

Also available at Amazon & other major booksellers.

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Rosa’s Einstein is a Latinx retelling of the Brothers Grimm’s Snow-White and Rose-Red, reevaluating border, identity, and immigration narratives through the unlikely amalgamation of physics and fairy tale.

In this full-length poetry collection, the girls of Rosa’s Einstein embark on a quest to discover what is real and what is possible in the realms of imagination, spurred on by scientific curiosity and emotional resilience. Following a structural narrative arc inspired by the archetypal hero’s journey, sisters Rosa and Nieve descend into the desert borderlands of New Mexico to find resolution and healing through a bold and fearless examination of the past, meeting ghostly helpers and hinderers along the way. These metaphorical spirits take the shape of circus performers, scientists, and Lieserl, the lost daughter Albert Einstein gave away.

Poet Jennifer Givhan reimagines the life of Lieserl, weaving her search for her scientist father with Rosa and Nieve’s own search for theirs. Using details both from Einstein’s known life and from quantum physics, Givhan imagines Lieserl in a circus-like landscape of childhood trauma and survival, guided by Rosa and Nieve.

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“Raise a glass, sit in Alice’s just-vacated seat, and sip Givhan’s heady home brew, slipping yourself through yourself to sift through her poems’ generous gifts of light. In our only and ever more burdened earth, this book is a welcome and welcoming cry in the night, calling all time bandits: We live in a universe still expanding! Come in. Welcome home.”—Julie Sophia Paegle, author of Twelve Clocks

 

Rosa’s Einstein is lush, lurid with color, ‘flowerfisted,’ feminist, and bomb-blast bright. ‘[B]raiding history with myth / like ribbons through plaits,’ Jennifer Givhan turns her keen eyes to time—the science and magic of it—and invents something wholly (and holy) original. This book is seared into my brain.”—Maggie Smith, author of Good Bones

 

“Jennifer Givhan’s voice is desperately needed, at this moment more than ever, and in Rosa’s Einstein she ambitiously tackles physics, fairy tales, immigration, nuclear bombs, and time travel in one vivid and marvelous collection.”—Jeannine Hall Gailey, author of Field Guide to the End of the World

 

“Highly inventive, super obsessive, and beautifully written, this book of poems is a sleek animal you will find yourself panting behind, chasing Jennifer Givhan as she reclaims history, teaches Albert Einstein to dance cumbia, and makes a ghost sister, Nieve, from the fallout of the Trinity explosion.”—Carrie Fountain, author of Burn Lake

 

Girl With Death Mask now an audio book!

Girl with Death Mask audio book announcement

Dear friends,

My heartbeat has been set. My first ever audio book is alive. & I’m a grateful poeta.

You can sample & find more info here.

All the poetry love & light,

Jenn

Jenn Givhan’s “Tigers for Tamir Rice” Wins 2017 Greg Grummer Poetry Award, Chosen by Monica Youn

street tiger

the book thinks mothers are fools

of Jenn’s poem, Monica Youn says, “The hypnotic rhythms of the poem create a spell in which guilt and fear and love and sorrow cast moving shadows across the imagination. As a tribute to a murdered boy playing in a park, it weaves together rage and tenderness into an artifact that is as gorgeous as it is troubling.”

Read the entire poem at Phoebe Journal.

My chapbook LIFELINE now available from Glass Poetry Press!

Check it out at Glass Poetry Press

lifeline

Cover art: “The Heart and Hands of Coatlicue” by Gabrielle Pescador

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Landscape with Headless Mama in NBC News Latino!

Amid Uncertain Times, 11 New and Necessary Latino Books to Read

LANDSCAPE WITH HEADLESS MAMA COVER (400x608)Mil gracias al maestro, Rigoberto González for including my debut poetry book LANDSCAPE WITH HEADLESS MAMA on this list from NBC News Latino!!

González writes:

“This list of recently published books features fiction, poetry and nonfiction by writers whose personal journeys as women, men, artists or activists are informed by their immigrant and ethnic histories or by their political and spiritual beliefs — values that need to be upheld as xenophobia, division and even hate crimes intensify.”

&

“This moving collection of poems is Givhan’s literary debut, heralding the arrival
of an edgy and candid voice in Latina letters.”

Micro-Review of Headless Mama in Kenyon Review!

A searing & gorgeous review of Headless Mama in Kenyon Review!

“What splits from this collection is the debut of a poet whose images claw their way out from the dream world and nest in the readers’ eyes. Indeed, this is the fierce work of a poet who cannot and will not be ignored.” –Rajiv Mohabir

I’m so grateful.

You can read the whole review, which gets at the heart of Headless Mama, here.

Review of HEADLESS MAMA!

The Blueshift Journal reviews LANDSCAPE WITH HEADLESS MAMA gorgeously. I’m so grateful.

“Givhan writes with a subtle magic, twining familial tension with the cultural fodder of the folktale. In the end, Landscape with Headless Mama is a tale full of whimsy and the poetics of language – and yet, at the same time, a tale that doesn’t shy away from the dark forests of the fairytale. Indeed, Landscape with Headless Mama is a beast, its jaws gaping wide.” –Briana Albers

Read the full review here.

Landscape with Headless Mama is here!

Jer and Lina with Mama's first book!

My babes are excited to hold Mama’s first book! Proud loves.

Dear Friends!

My book is now available from Pleiades Press and Amazon.

If you’d like a signed copy of LANDSCAPE WITH HEADLESS MAMA (17.95 + 2.50 shipping), you can order it directly from me and I’ll send the book to you!

Thank you for your support! Just click on the following link to pay using PayPal.

paypal button

LANDSCAPE WITH HEADLESS MAMA by Jennifer Givhan

LANDSCAPE WITH HEADLESS MAMA COVER (400x608)Available from Pleiades Press.

Also available from Amazon.

Contact Jenn for a signed copy.

Landscape with Headless Mama is a poetry collection by Jennifer Givhan that explores the experiences of becoming and being a mother through the lens of dark fairy tales. Givhan describes the book as “a surreal survival guide.” A poet with strong roots in the desert southwest, Givhan incorporates fine art and folkloric influences from Latin American culture into her poetry. Drawing inspiration from Gloria Anzaldúa, Frieda Kahlo, Leonora Carrington, tattoo artists, and comic book heroes, among other sources, this is a book of intelligence, humor, deep feeling, and, above all, duende.

“Pardon me, but I’m shivering a bit at my core.  These are restless, storm-hued stanzas, revelations of our dark cravings and hapless, woefully imperfect attempts at  perfect love. Here are the dreams even our dreams won’t reveal, flaunting wild edges and endings that nudge the soul, each fusing of  lyric and lesson as potent as a backhand slap. And Mama watches everything. Mama sees it all.” – Patricia Smith

“The landscape of poet Jennifer Givhan’s searing first book may be that of the desert southwest, but is lush with language, thick with a personal symbology and unsparingly true. If Frida Kahlo and Remedios Varo wrote poems together, that book just might be Landscape with Headless Mama. The women in Givhan’s poetry are a fierce crew. They fight, are flayed and are teenagers at the fair. They catastrophize, hallucinate, hula and struggle with this damnable world. These are true border poems, restlessly crossing between the real and the surreal, the loved and the used up, the fertile and the infertile, and the hungry and the sated. Jennifer Givhan is a dangerous poet in all the necessary ways.” – Connie Voisine

“What’s living without fear of getting lost?” That’s only one of many empowering moments in Jennifer Givhan’s auspicious debut. Her “blood magic” ink delivers the hard truths that kick-start the healing of the “splintered cactus” that hurdles the path of a woman’s journey. Landscape with Headless Mama blossoms with the “strange alloys of sadness” that devastate motherhood and femininity, and then nurture their wounds back to vibrant life. – Rigoberto González

In Jennifer Givhan’s Landscape with Headless Mama, the vivid truth of these poems evokes both the wince of pain and the head-rush of joy, the familial and the romantic disconnections we endure and those connections found in the same terrain that we, still, manage to cherish. If there’s a line in these poems that doesn’t surprise, I couldn’t find it; one never knows where the poem will take us. I found myself tracing “maps of the borderland into my body/ cliff dwelling, the taste of red brick on the tongue….” Each figure rendered, each voice conjured comes to life with their distinct journey, and Givhan continues to remind us of yet another truth: “There are other ways for the story to end.” Indeed, the possibilities seem limitless in this world she builds. If a collection of poems can be called a page-turner, this is what it feels like. – A. Van Jordan

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The Change

My poem THE CHANGE, a finalist for the The Jane Lumley Prize, was published in

H E R M E N E U T I C   C H A O S   J O U R N A L:

“When I was still small I began growing antlers 
as a stag grows antlers, as a girl grows
breasts.”

Read the poem below.

 

(And I love this prompt Tausha Johnson came up with for incorporating magical realism into our writing, using “The Change” as a model!)

 

 

The Change

 

 

When I was still small I began growing antlers

as a stag grows antlers      as a girl grows

breasts      My chest remained flat & the blood

didn’t come      but the velvet skin

sprang spongy behind my temples      No one at school

laughed at the antlers like they did when I’d grown

hair under my arms & razor-scraped my shins

to the blood-bright thrill of the locked bathroom door

Mom said she would’ve given me warm

water & lotion    if I’d let her in    The girls asked could I

pierce my antlers like ears or a nose      & if they

hurt      The boys asked were they strong enough

to break glass      crush tin cans      & how long

would they grow       The doctor

said to stick out my tongue & drink

peach tea from a soda fountain in the nurse’s

lounge so I could pee into a cup & prove

myself       Sometimes a female deer grows

a stub       He asked if there was any chance I could be

growing something else      I told mom

there was a boy but it didn’t mean anything

I couldn’t even use a tampon yet

Soon small red birds gathered & settled

as the velvet turned to bone      matured into branches

They were too heavy & I knew I had a choice

Mom scoured every myth      required

every curandera crack eggs

over my belly      rub sagebrush across

my forehead      chant & pray      One even told me

to sing      I could learn to love my antlers      or I could

wait      see if they fell off on their own        see how long

would they stay gone

 

(appeared in my book Girl with Death Mask, Indiana Review Press/Blue Light Books, 2018)

“Tasseography of Pregnancy After Miscarriage” in Drunken Boat

reading tea leaves“I keep trying to read the tea leaves greening
the lukewarm belly of the mug—”

Read and listen to the rest of the poem at Drunken Boat.

 

Love,

Jenn

My One-Hundredth Journal Publication up at Origins!

virgen de guadalupeI’ve been working like a madwoman sending out my poems into the world nearly as long as my son has been alive (I started submitting when he was one, so I mark my poetry career by his life, because truly, I’m not sure either would have been possible without the other–how the imaginary shaped reality, how I wrote my story into existence, realizing we could adopt after writing poems about being a mother and mourning the children we’d lost to infertility and miscarriage)… Anyway, all of that to say, since he’s been alive, I’ve now published poems in one hundred journals! Today my work went up at Origins Journal, marking this moment for my poems–and I’m so thankful. For the life that brings the poems, and for the poems that keep giving to my life.

“Your body is a knife—

both slicing point

& handle.” –from “Self-Defense”

 

Here are “Leaving Anthony” and “Self-Defense–Or What I Wish Mama Would Have Taught Me” up at Origins!

Thank you for reading!

Love,

Jenn

Sewing Feathers and After the Miscarriage II in Waxwing

woman sprouting flowers

Mark Harless

The mother spreads her arms and waits — hoping

at the top of a hill — for a mend

in the empty break of sky.

–from “Sewing Feathers” (read the full poem in Waxwing).

We lived our first existence as if on an island —

the waving flag of a companionship

always sinking.

–from “After the Miscarriage II” (read the full poem in Waxwing).

Love,

Jenn

“Nocturne” & “Scientific Balloon” up at Four Way Review

Thedress landscapen I remembered: Mama wasn’t gone
but safe, in her bed, turning in sleep. It was I

who went away—from Chopin in the bones,
palms heavy with dates like dark

purple fingers reaching toward sand…

Read (and listen to) both poems at Four Way Review.

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