Featured Poet: Jennifer Militello, Goffstown
Jennifer Militello was born in New York City and grew up in Rhode Island. Her first collection of poetry, History of the Always Pain, was awarded the 2007 Tupelo Press First Book Prize and will be published in Spring of 2009. She is the author of the chapbook Anchor Chain, Open Sail (Finishing Line Press, 2006) and has had poems published in Boston Review, The Kenyon Review, The New Republic, The North American Review, The Paris Review, Prairie Schooner, Verse, and The Virginia Quarterly Review, among others. Her poems have been nominated for several Pushcart Prizes, and she has been awarded grants and fellowships from The Barbara Deming Memorial Fund, Writers at Work, and the Millay Colony for the Arts. She has taught at Brown University, The Rhode Island School of Design, and The University of Massachusetts-Lowell, and is currently a professor at River Valley Community College in Claremont, New Hampshire.
Of her featured poem, Jennifer writes:
This poem was born of two mothers: a visit to a torture museum in France and the weave of its obsessive voice. It was one of the first poems written for a new manuscript I’ve been working on, and one of a series of “Personality State” poems, a category which suggests that the speaker suffers from Multiple Personality Disorder and so struggles with a number of internal personas. This particular ‘personality’ is based both on the scavenger’s daughter as a torture device from the Middle Ages and the more literal sense of a woman who was raised by someone who feeds off flesh or survives on the discards of others.
The speaker is a troublemaker, mischievous, destructive, like the torture device for which she is named. There is a sense of wanting control in a world as broken as her perception of it; there is a sense of seeking peace but expecting just the opposite. She knows that she is inconsequential and wants to make a mark. This may explain why she wants the rules to be broken, and one can see that this unruly personality placed among others would give the bearer trouble: the result is a group of poems which explore the tensions of identity as a source of illness and health.
Personality State: Scavenger’s Daughter
I want to look prim if not proper, twist modestly
if not sedate. I want to give fate a reason
to hate me and exhaust me and lick me up.
I want my taste on the lips. I want to give shivers
living like lovers, and prayers when I cannot.
I want to break the way the branch predicts.
Break the veins, a village. Break the outer outside
first. Break the wear to market. Break
the hand with work. Break the gesture. Break
its jerk. Break to know the goldrush want.
Multiply the world by its wreckage, and come out
ahead, hearing dawn as it barks from the holds
of ships, landing quick like music with its crack
of whips, from the holds of a game I cannot
watch. I want to sin at the eaves of heaven.
One eye to the nowhere periscope of sleep.
A stiff gene that fits, an x where I have been.
The many bicycles of memory and their many
broken chains. I want hours to happen,
beehive-rich, and leave the watchman lame.
I want my God with no religion. I want to want
the tangled larceny of thirst. I want my heart
to have such branches its Octobers dream.
Little brevity, little jealousy of larks. Flock
of road, wind forbidden, excellence of coast.
--first appeared in The Kenyon Review
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