Don't Miss This
by Jena Strong

Jena Strong, 2012. ISBN 978-0-615-64355-7.
Reviewed by Khadijah A.
Posted on 08/29/2012

Poetry; Nonfiction: Memoir; Nonfiction: Life Lessons

Jena Strong landed in my inbox one day, turning a day in which I felt frazzled, frustrated and confused totally around with one beautiful poem. Following the link in the email my sister in law had sent, I found Strong's blog, and fell under the spell of her prose, just as I had her poetry. When I finally received a copy of Don't Miss This, I was torn between saving it for the perfect time in which to sit and savor it, and opening it up right away and immersing myself in it. In the end, I did neither. Life intervened, and the book sat on my nightstand, unread, simply due to circumstance.

Three nights ago, though, I found myself restless, thinking too much, and having trouble going to sleep. My eyes lit on the book. I took it, opened it, and spent the next two hours with Strong, following her journey and learning about her, while at the same time discovering things within myself that answered to her words. No, they did not help me sleep. But when sleep did come, I felt as if I had found a new friend.

Strong's poems are full of strong images and breathtaking expression. She has the gift of making the specific, universal; her words breathe the essence of womanhood.

Sometimes, with a driving rhythm that carries you on, breathless, to the end of the poem...

Soul oh blackbird sing your funk in the dead of night and fly that
jazzy coop
Where every path does lead back to a single place the place is
When love invisibly presses against your back holds up up in
the empty frame
When you stand in the doorway not coming or leaving
When the warm night at your back teases your shoulder blades
When you split open like a rock full of wet miracles
When words spill from your mouth like lightening bugs from an
old jam jar...

And at other times softly, taking your hand and leading you through her thoughts and experiences, gently, careful, yet not afraid to examine the pain that might be found...

Two cardinals perch against the dark sky, their cross-songs
like question marks followed by a fugue of ellipses.
The word itself eludes me, its shy hint of before and after.
We play the game of which thing we'd rather give up
food or sleep, sight or strength, an ear or a leg, hiding or seeking
and next thing I know I'm crying over my crepes,
unable to locate myself in time, the space I wedged open contracting,
my body pinned to a blue chair from an obsolete gift registry
that was prelude to the life I barreled into and out of like a guest.
A whole lemon sits on the old picnic table. It's anyone's guess.

To be honest, this is the most aptly named book I've come across in a long time. This beautiful gift of words, ideas and experience is definitely not one to let pass by.

Read an excerpt from this book.

A life-long poet, Jena Strong holds degrees in Russian Studies and Creative Writing. She lives with her daughters in Burlington, Vermont, where she practices waking up, making the coffee, and seeing what happens. Visit her website.

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