About the Poems
by Jill Alexander Essbaum
It occurs to me that if someone who didn't know me at all were to judge me as a poet (or a person, for that matter) solely based on a reading of these five poems, he or she might be led to believe that I walk around with an underlying perversion of spirit flooding through my system like lymphatic fluid, a certain cynicism under pressure, ready and oh-so-willing to leak through the surface of my skin at any given moment. Well, probably. These poems are about as high-strung as big-top tightropes. And I am of the opinion (somewhat maligned as of late) that poetry ought to be high-strung, excitable, a little nervous, somewhat affected, easily upset and ultimately sensitive. “A Razor to the Throat Ought to Do it” is, I think, a good example of what I mean. She’s so morbid, so maudlin, that poem, and yet, with the internal rhyme and the couplet-ness of the form, she’s also so composed, and just enough witty (hopefully) to be unsettling.
While I rarely set out to write a poem with any idea of what I hope it might “say,” I’m pretty devoted to a set-list of thematic obsessions-love and death, sex and despair, and most importantly, the presence or absence of God in the midst of the suffering that life willfully, woefully brings on. These five poems are each, in their way, pretty indicative of my fixations. “On Reading Poorly Transcribed Erotica” is perhaps the one clever poem I’m allotted to write in my lifetime, and it’s the only poem I’ve ever written that’s makes me laugh when I read it aloud. Regarding “Seven Demons,” “Wicked Woman Weeping,” and “As One Crying Out in the Wilderness”: I wrote these with the intention of tithing them to my church, basing them on the weekly lectionary readings and putting them in the collection plate when the offering was passed (said my mother: you’re giving them money too, right?). I have to hand it to this wonderful and supportive congregation-First English Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas- I wrote some frankly hedonistic verses throughout that year and yet the secretary was deliberate about tacking them up (in an appropriately high corner!) of the bulletin board each week.
Ultimately, it’s my hope that my work both pleases the ear and unnerves the heart.
Ultimately, that’s why God invented poems and the poets that write them.