Still, I keep myself, I taketo bed. One lung is red. Cut redflowers hung in pink water.My other lung is out of line.From one lung, I tell the truth.From the other lung, I lie.Cut pink flowers hung in red water.Like a pain, the truth is mine.The lie is that today I want to die.Cut red water hung in pink flowers.The rest of it is stillness, rest.A soft cough into a hard pan.A hard cough into a soft plane.Cut pink water hung in red flowers.
“The Rest” from PUBLIC ABSTRACT: by JANE HUFFMAN.
Published by American Poetry Review on September 26th, 2023.
Copyright © 2023 by Jane Huffman.
All rights reserved.
Reproduced by Poetry Daily with permission.
Jane Huffman’s debut poetry collection, Public Abstract, was the winner of the 2023 APR/Honickman first book prize. Her poems have been published in The New Yorker, Poetry Magazine, The Nation, The Massachusetts Review, and elsewhere, and she was the recipient of a 2019 Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg fellowship from the Poetry Foundation. Jane has her MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and is a PhD student in literary arts at the University of Denver. She is founder and editor-in-chief of Guesthouse, an online literary journal, and poetry editor at Denver Quarterly.
Winner of the 2023 APR/Honickman First Book Prize, Jane Huffman's intricate debut collection, Public Abstract, examines illness and recovery, loss and addiction: the ripples of influence an addict has on their family circle, and vice versa. We watch as a private mind, devoted to its privacy, is laid out on the page and abstracted to become a public revelation. Building an aesthetic of compressed interiority, the speaker's tension is clear--"From one lung, I tell the truth. / From the other lung, I lie." Through intimate and meticulous poems, Public Abstract explores the operations of form, sewn together, and the failings of form, ripped apart. Crumbling under its own weight and folderol, form becomes an act of invention and in Huffman's expert hands, revision becomes a genre.
"In Public Abstract, Jane Huffman demonstrates a steely commitment to an aesthetic vision. Form is feeling in these poems: tonally cool, their repetitions and hard turns express, passionately, uncertainty, anxiety, revelation, skepticism, and curiosity. Huffman's lived experience--with a sick body, a sick brother, disturbances of psyche and society--are the pains from which the book's formal feelings come. Refreshing the operations of ode, haibun, sestina, and fragment, the poems sometimes teeter on the verge of mannerist madness--what bravery to write them! Completely thrilling to read them. In Jane Huffman's poems, I feel the impassioned psychic venturing of Emily Dickinson, the wit of Kay Ryan, the fragmented surreal of Jean Valentine, and the playfulness and bravado of Gertrude Stein. Public Abstract is a striking debut." --Dana Levin