Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Base Metals by Jessica Harman

Jessica Harman
Cloudkeeper Press
2009 $7.00

‘Base Metals’ is a love story, an intimate story of loss; not just the loss of a lover but sometimes the loss of cognition, perceived reality, touch, and balance, yet balance is always present in memory:


you are the sound of the train passing
through the city at night, that soothing rattle sewing
the distance to streetlights.

the sound tastes like moonlight and smoke.
the sickle moon’s base metal sets behind a maple tree
then the stars die out, one by one.

you are memory itself…”

Harmon doesn’t rush the reader, instead she lets us feel all the details, the voice often profound with succinct truths and the voice is always clear in its presence, never pretending otherwise. these poems open, or pull aside the curtains we sometimes close against what we don‘t want to know about ourselves:

…”but to you, sunlight was a pop song,
and pop songs were great - and light hearted - you liked
to walk on the sunny side of the street -

but sunshine to me was what
dried out the dust

and lifted your bed
when the wind scattered leaves and paper cups -”

the writing of love pulses through the dim halls of writing, and are reinvented generation after generation. here the poet tells us of anther kind of love of self and love of the past as a line to the present, even when the poet traces back, traces on dust on windows closed for winter. she constantly reaffirms her presence:

“even here in this place, where the sidewalks
buzz with filaments of snow. I am a body, a template
for your needles and blood pressure gauges. I am a magnet
for your pills, their sweet and salty. I am here in this city”

the directness: Harmon writes to the reader, there are no separations; all boundaries surround the reader with an emphasis of being all the characters at play. all treated with gentle respect even the face of tragedy become universal. we are left with an insight merged by the love of being a poet:

“the poem has meandered its way through
being. a poem’s pulse
is like night
in the naked wrist - “

Harman ends the chapbook with another endearment that twists and strongly suggests, question the next move, which I will not repeat here. it is up to you to buy the chapbook and find the ending:

“…the soft - boiled waves, to let my wings be quenched by salt.
and how often does the boat need to leak for us to learn to swim?

or am I talking only to myself? we’re out there,
looking for a place to plant our feet, walk…”

once you’re delved into the works presented, you will realize the importance of such a writer. Harman deserves a wide audience.

Cloudkeeper Press has once again offered a chapbook unlike any other. I’m convinced all great poets and writings from our present day culture, are being published, only, by small presses.

Irene Koronas
Poetry Editor
Wilderness House Literary Review
Poetry Editor
Ibbetson Street Press


  1. I just got the book yesterday--and what a delight! Her poems leap.

  2. To order "Base Metals," please email jharman14@aol.com, with "Base Metals" in the subject line.