From My Bookshelf: Given Away, by Jennifer Barber

Given AwayMy e-mailbox recently offered a lovely surprise: a message from Jennifer Barber, whose name was familiar to me from Salamander, the fine literary journal that she edits from Suffolk University in Boston. She was writing to let me know about her latest poetry collection, Given Away, which was published by Kore Press, and to offer me a complimentary copy, which I gladly accepted.

The book’s cover bears a blurb from Vijay Seshadri, describing Given Away as a collection of “beautiful and rigorous poems.” I’d agree. I can’t help sensing that I should reread this book many times, that I haven’t even begun to absorb the deep meanings embedded in these challenging pieces.

Some of the poems that have gripped me most strongly are those with fairly clear Jewish connections. Take, for example, “nefesh,” which was also published in Harvard Divinity Bulletin. Or “A Poet of Medieval Spain,” which appeared first Cerise Press. In a note, Barber explains that this poem “draws on Peter Cole’s anthology The Dream of the Poem: Hebrew Poetry from Muslim and Christian Spain, 950-1492 (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2007) to imagine an anonymous poet of 12th century Andalusia.”

I’m grateful to Jennifer Barber for offering me this introduction to her work (and for the especially generous inclusion of a sample copy of Salamander in the package she mailed to me). I look forward to spending even more time with her poems.