Lesley Jenike’s new collection, she writes, ‘It’s our language: what can we call a thing / that is
and is not.
These poems are haunted by a ‘non-child,’ a child who was not to be born, and with it, a life the speaker was not to live. Absence itself becomes a nearly tangible presence. I don’t know how Jenike does it—breaks your heart and makes you want more—but I can’t remember the last time I read poems as smart and sure and devastatingly precise in their language, imagery, and feeling. In a poem about a fateful ultrasound, one that reveals no fetal heartbeat, she writes, ‘the doctor calls it “practice,”
snapping off // the screen, tearing up the spit-out photograph. / “Next time,” she says, “it’ll be the real thing.”’ Mark my words: these poems are—and this poet is—the real thing. Punctum:
is a remarkable accomplishment.” —Maggie Smith
“Riffing on Barthes’s notion of punctum, his ‘third meaning,’ and its other definitions—tear duct, small point, strike-through—Jenike creates, with her Punctum:, a love song to the lost child, to the living child, to the ineffable nonexistent, and to the abundant existent that takes my breath away. This collection’s fulsome lines and literary touchstones balance precariously, sometimes archaically, always brilliantly, with the gravities of the physical body and the ruins of our 21st-century planet to give us something new, rare, and important.”