Psalms for Dogs and Sorcerers
by Jen Coleman
$16.00 | December 2013
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Winner of the 2013 Bob Kaufman Book Prize selected by Poet Dara Wier.
The “psalm-poets” of the Reformation wanted to bring etheral ideas down to earth. “Thou, once a body, now but air/Arch botcher of a psalm or prayer/From CarfaxJ come/And patch us up a zealous lay” penned the 18th century psalm-poet Robin Wisdom. 21st century psalm-poet Jen Coleman is involved in her own reformation of psalms as proceeding from the ground up. She details how “The dirt holds eight immutable truths” while acknowledging that she can list but six of them – and they don’t present themselves in numerical order! While it is a mystery that Robin Wisdom predicted the existence of Carfax (insert emoticon of choice), it is no secret that Jen Coleman has reclaimed the psalm for those of us who still puzzle over the sixty-four-thousand-dollar question of what life is all about.
— Tina Darragh
Apocalyptic, raw, and galloping, Jennifer Coleman’s poems are built to unsettle. This is a book that begins with the corporeal and ends with the collapse. Its restlessness is visceral; it’s a trip not to be missed.
Unwilling to share secrets that must be told, Jen Coleman’s poems whisper to each other their wisdoms. Our role is a better kind of listening; more like taking action than what we have been taught. “A serious census of the fishes”. I was not prepared to need this book the way I do.
— Buck Downs
I just want to make a list of all the small animals in this book. The krill, the worms, the insects, the bees and their honeys. And also the rivers and the cities. All the ways they mix and meld. The way this book lets a rat be a short-eared bunny and a lingcod be the 15 million unemployed. The way this book also asks “what does it matter, the ocean?” And then explains it, fully, beautifully through psalms that celebrate what remains of the at risk ecosystem.
— Juliana Spahr
There’s this list I’ve been carrying around, 100 things I love about Jen Coleman’s poems. It became 180 with little effort. Is this your first time reading Coleman? Do yourself a favor give it the full treatment, reading it four different ways: umbrella in the rain, feet in mud, seeds under tongue, underwear loaded with whipped cream, DO IT, DO IT DIFFERENT!! These poems span more than a decade of making poems. Writing poems is one thing, but making them HAPPEN, making them take over your sense of the world around you, that’s a REAL poet’s job!! Coleman!! For years I’ve said WHY doesn’t Coleman have BOOK!? Do you own many books of poetry? Do you KNOW HOW RARE it is to LOVE each poem in a book? Coleman, we’ll refer to her poetry-making by her last name one day soon, like, have you read the Coleman poem with that middle-of-the-night morphing epiphany, “I turn my body over / in my sleep as if it exists / as if it is worth the trouble.” WOW. If I could go back in time I would ask my mother to read this book out loud each week I was inside her. Prepare with poetry that is honed on the great experiments of LIFE!!
About the Author
Jen Coleman was born in Minnesota in 1970. She earned a BA in Theater from Beloit College, and worked briefly at a circuit board factory, a three ring binder factory, a blanket factory, a gas station, as a theater electrician and as a schoolbus driver. She earned an MFA in poetry from George Mason University. There, she studied with Susan Tichy, Peter Klappert and Carolyn Forché. Her work was further shaped by the Washington, DC, poetry community. While in DC, Jen co-hosted with Allison Cobb a season of the DCAC “In Your Ear” reading series and completed a collaborative chapbook with CE Putnam and Allison Cobb entitled Communal Bebop Canto. Jen and Allison moved to New York in 2000, where they joined Ethan Fugate and Susan Landers in editing six issues of Pom2, “a journal of poetic polylogue.” While in DC and New York, Jen worked for Environmental Defense Fund. Jen and Allison moved to Portland, Oregon in 2008, where they live with their dog, Quincy. In Portland, Jen participated in the 13 Hats collaborative of artists and writers. She co-hosts readings with the Spare Room Collective and works for Oregon Environmental Council. This is her first full-length volume.