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Reviews on Jennifer Markell Writer


Booklife, Publishers Weekly reviewer
Singing at High Altitude






Review of Singing at High Altitude by poet Susan Rich:

I've been enjoying this book not only for its strong narrative tensions but also for the way Markell moves easily between the natural world, the therapeutic world, and her own childhood. Here is a poem that I think does this particularly well:

2 a.m.

The wind moves, the branch moves, the mind
moves, vigilant as an arctic fox, tuned
to what’s hidden in ice. Mind’s a hunter

on the prowl, and a gatherer, sorting
memories underground. It travels back
for a faithless lover. Jumps the queue

to the future. Mind likes to remind:
you can’t survive on love,
though you can starve for it.

Late at night, the mind confronts itself,
ruminates on the fate of hairless bipeds.
It sighs at a melting icicle. Flies to the sun.

The understated humor, the re-enactment of this time out of time, reminds me of Keats or Stevens. This is high lyric at its best. The poem feels incredibly contemporary but upon a second and then a third reading, it becomes timeless; a reckoning with the mind, or even the soul. Almost all of the poems in Singing at High Altitude are succinct, employing only four or five stanzas to do their work.


It is this braiding of the human world with "Amber and Cobalt," or milkweed and ash, that I'm most drawn to. The voice under these poems brings me new angles for looking at the world and is always trustworthy, always more than fair. I find myself returning to the poems in Singing at High Altitude that on a first look seem deceptively simple but upon a closer read are urging us to not only look more closely at the world around us, but these poems are also asking us to love it. You will want your own copy of Singing at High Altitude, published by Main Street Rag, 2021.

Susan Rich is the author of five poetry collections including Gallery of Postcards and Maps: New and Selected Poems (forthcoming from Salmon Poetry), Cloud Pharmacy, The Alchemist’s Kitchen, named a finalist for the Foreword Prize and the Washington State Book Award, Cures Include Travel, and The Cartographer’s Tongue, winner of the PEN USA Award. She edited, along with Brian Turner and Catherine Barnett, The Strangest of Theaters: Poets Writing Across Borders (McSweeney's). 

"The poems sing with what Markell calls lucent sight, born of darkness yet borne aloft. In Ode to What Comes, the last four lines hint at a poetic credo.  Surrender and create.  Surrender and take wing, be it serenade or requiem... "


~David Long, Founder & Former Director, University of Oklahoma Expository Writing Program

Review of Samsara  (excerpt) in Meridian, the Semi-Annual from the University of Virginia, by Caitlin Conley, Issue 33

I found myself imagining her book as a garden: within it, her poems would be flowers that seem disparate, each striking on its own. However, I began to sense that beneath the soil there lay a network of roots so interwoven that any attempt to separate one poem from the whole would fail. The poems are active, breathing, growing, and connect themselves together practically of their own volition.


Review of Samsara by Kevin Walzer, Poetry Editor, Word Tech Communications:

"The wheel of life turns in Jennifer Markell's Samsara, and her poems enact the ebb and flow, the rise and fall, the coming and going, of each moment. Markell's strong attention to dailiness, to detail, is on display in "With One eye Open":

With One Eye Open

The cat watches us eat latkes
fried in oil; curls in on itself,
unconcerned with miracles of light
and all that rises up in praise-
fragments of song, bread of morning,
seeds of a thousand flowers.
She stretches and yawns, heedless
of what comes down, snowfall or footfall,
ash and endless dust.

Though the clock on the mantle insists
each minute counts
equally, these menorah candles
unevenly burn. They stand like sentinels,
vigilant, willing to protect the temple
in spite of impossible odds.
With one eye open, the cat watches.

"Contrasting the clock and the candles and their marking of time, this poem--as exemplified by the watching cat--focuses its gaze on something as particular as eating fried latkes. Everything is implicit, and profound."


Review of Samsara (excerpt) by Leanna Stead in The Main Street Rag, Spring 2015:

"Samsara not only exemplifies the turning of the wheel, but illuminates its motion; the reader is taken on a journey of faith, fear, and finally, trust."

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