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Our Situation by W. Luther Jett

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 27 pgs.
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Our Situation by W. Luther Jett is a powerful chapbook in which the poet explores the uncertainty of not only the state of politics in the United States, but also events that jar us from our routine lives and remind us that trauma can occur unexpectedly. Despite the keening (there is a poem with such a title about a dying nation) in the volume, there are glimmers of hope to be had.

"Keening" (pg. 2)

My country is dying and I,
I am singing the night to sleep.

While fireflies rise from their
diurnal graves to torch the dark, I sing.

While the owl's great winds sweep
clean the sightless air, I sing.

From the mountains to the prairies
I sing, and from ocean to ocean, we weep.

We weep together for our song
is as much a lament as it is a battle-cry."

Jett’s imagery in these poems, like in “Spinning,” place the reader at the center of the action. Readers will feel the body in the air after the car makes contact, and the hot breath of the wolf at the narrator’s back in “Canary.” Many of these images are at first subtle until their power creeps up on the reader, and it is perfectly on display in “Canary” and many other poems.

Our Situation by W. Luther Jett does not strike heavily with its message about the current political and social situations we find ourselves in as a nation, like the narrator says in “Canary:” “A wolf is walking/down my backbone — and you don’t/believe me.” and “he’ll lunge and bite — and you/you won’t believe it’s happening/even as you watch me/disintegrate into a smear of viscera./” (pg. 5) And in many ways, Jett gives many the hope they need that we can recover from the darkness, like in “Love Song for A Dismembered Country:” “A voice you have forgotten/will return, wearing/night-colored slippers// Then these words at last/may roll the way honey does/over your parched tongue.//” (pg. 24) Don’t miss this collection.

**Note: Jett is part of a poetry workshop group to which I belong.**

RATING: Quatrain

About the Poet:

W. Luther Jett is a native of Montgomery County, Maryland and a retired special educator. His poetry has been published in numerous journals, such as The GW Review, Beltway, Potomac Review, and Little Patuxent Review as well as several anthologies, including My Cruel Invention and Proud to Be. His poetry performance piece, Flying to America, debuted at the 2009 Capital Fringe Festival in Washington D.C. He has been a featured reader at many D.C. area venues. He is the author of two poetry chapbooks: Not Quite: Poems Written in Search of My Father, released by Finishing Line Press in the fall of 2015, and Our Situation, released by Prolific Press, summer, 2018.

Mailbox Monday #501

Mailbox Monday has become a tradition in the blogging world, and many of us thank Marcia of The Printed Page for creating it.

It now has it’s own blog where book bloggers can link up their own mailbox posts and share which books they bought or which they received for review from publishers, authors, and more.

Leslie, Martha, and I also will share our picks from everyone’s links in the new feature Books that Caught Our Eye. We hope you’ll join us.

Here’s what we received:

Our Situation by W. Luther Jett, which I purchased.

Couched as they are in exquisite hope (“the canticle of sparrows/ assures me we are constant as the grass”), we find in these poems “the trumpet’s blare” and … resistance. The range is wide.Yeats, Epimenides, the ancient prayer to do with the opening and closing of the gates recited on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, all make their appearances in this work, and somehow enter the context of our present lives — “small boat pitched/ on the dark sea—One child/cast up on the cold shore.” –Myra Sklarew, author of A Survivor Named Trauma, forthcoming

The palace is burning. My country is dying. As prophets of old, W. Luther Jett reveals in tones magisterial and lyrical our situation. Not your situation. Not mine. Ours. He asks us to consider what led us to Charlottesville, to Aleppo. Our failure is blindness. “If you don’t see the wolf on my back—how can I describe the wolf lurking on your own shoulders?” We are all in the same boat, “lost between ocean and sky with nothing to hold but each other.” These poems are meant to advise and guide us. Jett implores us to open our eyes. And listen. –Barbara Goldberg, Series Editor, International Editions , the Word Works

The anger pulls you in. Frustration holds you rapt. But, the balm of a promised dawn-view dandles you. Luther Jett’s Our Situation beautifully helps us hike up the current hard-rough trail, all with a whispered hope of vistas around the bend.–Hiram Larew

How do we name, process, and react to the perils of the world we live in and the constant barrage of troubling news? With fierce compassion, W. Luther Jett’s Our Situation impels us to do just that while reminding us of how much we have to lose should we fail. This is a collection that needs to be read. –Lucinda Marshall founder of the DiVerse Gaithersburg Poetry Reading series

What did you receive?