Jennifer Campbell
Driving Straight Through


What is it to drive straight through?  There are no stoppages or detours; rather, there's a
fierce determination to get “there.”  And just where is that?  Perhaps we can never know; the destination, if one exists, is part of the mystery this fine collection repeatedly provides, as outside the windows of the hurtling vehicle lies darkness.  Think of Creeley, as he urges his friend to “drive … look/out where yr going”: “the darkness sur-/rounds us.”  Or recall Isabel Archer: “A swift carriage, of a dark night, rattling with four horses over roads that one can't see-that's my idea of happiness.”  And the book before you truly provides a (self-) Portrait of a Lady.
“Through” indeed.  To drive through is to pierce, and there are poems here which will penetrate, sometimes painfully, especially if you come to them with a male ego (and what male cannot?).  But more: one desires to be through, done.  Or one seeks to go through to “the other side,” where lies “The Unseen.”  In the poem of that title, the first of the second section, Jennifer Campbell writes,

Not a case of a writer seeing the unseen,
or finding a world that always existed
only to conquer it


just a routine
de-scaling, a mundane but nearly
impossible process: be happy
with what you're given.

So there's to be no solution to the mystery but the nearly impossible process of acceptance.  In “Breast Ironing,” “she” can accept the callowness of the “five frat brothers,” for “they knew little of the tricks/and mysteries to a woman's body.”  Can they (or we) ever know of those tricks and mysteries, especially with the multiple suggestions of the word “tricks”?  You will, oh man, be tricked, nor will you ever learn the trick to understanding, the tricks of the relationship trade.  
You will be deceived, but the magic abounds; you should work towards acceptance, however nearly impossible.
The drive is straight through a huge metaphorical day, during which one must “Descend, look for another way in,” gather “a necessary collection/of concentrations,” until the hour of Reckoning:

At 4 a.m.,
I am stormed, drenched
          in our insatiable symbiosis.

Reading the subtle lyrics of this book, we can hope to be thus drenched-and with acceptance.

David Landrey

Writing poetry has always been my way of understanding the world and making decisions.  While I use imagery to tell brief stories, I continually find myself refining my world view through poetic discoveries.  My work is not easy to produce-I see a tension between a teacher's need for clarity and a poet's desire to always use only the most powerful, original language, so I try to remind myself of T.S. Eliot's insistence: “Genuine poetry can communicate before it is understood.”
Jennifer Campbell

Jennifer Campbell is an English professor in Buffalo, NY, and a co-editor of Earth's Daughters feminist literary journal.  Her poetry has appeared in HeartLodge, Feile-Festa, Nerve Cowboy, Letterhead, Earth's Daughters, Hudson View, Skyline Magazine, and Literary House.  Her poem “That Siren, Sleep” appears in an anthology titled Mourning Sickness and she received a Pushcart nomination in 2007.  She has work forthcoming in Caesura and Panamowa: a new lit order.

From the book:

Driving Straight Through

Hurtling through farmland
as the sun cocked its eye upon me,
I could think of no other word
but glory behind the wheel.

That same trip, the deer jolted us.
Its slim apparition gliding across
the road shocked me into giddiness
far more efficiently than slivers
of night air or inky music bursting
from crackling speakers.

I stumbled in the doorway
of the tiny gas station, scraped
my knees, hands, nearly hysterical
over the realness of it-kneeling
before the altar of the Sugar Creek,
broken blood vessels were already
forming deep purple bruises.

Neither of us slept the rest of the way,
just brushed wrists and matched hands
from time to time, caught silent
in the marvel of red-orange light,
far beyond our limits
and city vocabulary.

 Driving Straight Through
is a 72 page hand-stitched paper book w/spine.

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