Jerrell, After the Revival
by Alan Shapiro
(Judge of the Anthony Hecht Poetry Prize, 2008)
pp, ISBN: 978-1904130-38-3, £8.99 (paperback only),
Publication, November 7th 2009
wish to buy this book
note about After the Revival
Equal parts church hymnal and outlaw
country album, Carrie Jerrells After the Revival
exudes a reverence for all things run down and wrecked. From
abandoned coal mines to overgrown cemeteries, to rivers full
of leeches; from tornados to demolition derbies, to weddings
gone wrong, the places and events explored in this dazzling
debut collection give rise to playful, poignant meditations
on the shifty limits of language, memory, faith, and love.
Employing free verse as well as traditional verse forms, After
the Revival is full-throated, full-throttle poetry as
technically nimble as it is unflinchingly voiced. It invites
readers to celebrate the sacred, the secular, and the intersection
of the two, and to sing as if we werent trapped
on cinder blocks, but free".
he judges foreword
A note on Carrie Jerrell
Carrie Jerrell was born in Petersburg, Indiana, USA in 1976.
She received her MA from the Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins
University and her PhD from Texas Tech University. A three-time
Pushcart Prize nominee, she is an assistant professor of English
at Murray State University in Murray, Kentucky and serves as
the poetry editor for Iron Horse Literary Review.
for After the Revival
Carrie Jerrell is a poised, mature and brilliant poet.
Her distinctive genius, what makes her unlike anybody else I
know, is her ability to bring together such a heterogeneous
mix of worlds and influences to be open to everything
formal and informal, profane and sacred, foreign and home grown.
from judge Alan Shapiro's foreword
poems in this book are full of idiosyncratic wit, keen social
intelligence and a kind of sass that makes great use of both
the honey and the sting. Thats pleasure enough to encounter,
but add to this Jerrells enviable formal assuredness and
you have a book that announces a bright new voice to contemporary
American poetry. Erin Belieu
the Revival is a book of rich, tightly-packed poems suffused
with the grit, rueful humor and pain of American country music.
the Revival carefully mourns the vulnerability of rural
America, from its people and their ways, to its small towns,
to the land itself. Theres a bell of desperation quietly
ringing throughout this original and finely-observed book. Carrie
Jerrells poems are loaded with longing and anguish; they
hit the page as homemade creations, gritty systems of memory
and transformation, rough-hewn and vital." Maurice
Jerrells poems are as lyrically alive, intelligent, and
unforgettable as Hank Williamss best songs. A lover of
paradox like John Donne, and as formally sophisticated, she
moves between the divine and the profane in the blink
of an eye. You cant match this book for mature feeling
and its rare, hopeful, sorrowing intelligence.
of After the Revival
Poetry Review (November 2010)
seems able to write expertly in any form she chooses
blank verse, rhymed couplets, taut free verse, and she has a
humdinger of a sestina, The Country-Western Singers
Ex-Wife, Sober in Mendocino County, California. But the
sonnet exactly half the poems in After the Revival, if
Ive counted right, are sonnets is her form of choice.
The centerpiece of the book, in fact, is a sequence of seriocomic
sonnets on the subject of modern American weddings. Its
a commonplace that rhymes in contemporary poetry ought to be
unobtrusive, but rhyme is first and foremost something for both
writer and reader to take pleasure in, and provided the poet
has the chops, theres nothing wrong with him or her showing
off now and again ... Its both odd and entirely apt that
After the Revival should have won the 2008 Anthony Hecht
Prize. Apt in the sense that the virtuosity, wit and erotic
and religious concerns on display in the collection would likely
have delighted Hecht. And maybe its not that odd: maybe
I had in mind too simplistic a contrast between Hechts
high style east coast, oriented toward Europe
and Jerrells southern and western twang. Overemphasizing
that dichotomy would mean forgetting how much Hecht owed to
southern poets like his teachers John Crowe Ransom and Allen
Tate, not to mention, come to think of it, the extent to which
an arch-formalist like Yvor Winters was a poet of the American
none of those poets mined the resources of the demotic as extensively
as Jerrell does. Country music and the language of sermons and
the Bible are more than comforts to the speaker of these poems,
theyre rhetorical resources. In drawing so successfully
on the texts to which many of her fellow citizens resort, with
varying degrees of self-awareness, in times of heightened feeling,
shes created a poetry thats at once genuinely popular
and unabashedly literary. Not bad for a first book."
Review, 196 (November-December 2010)
Jerrell [is] a worthy winner of the Anthony Hecht Poetry Prize
... She has a simple, but startlingly effective strategy: to
set the taut rhythms and shapely stanzas won from formal education
against the language of a rich, rough earlier life. Her poems
embrace popular song ('you blue jean honky-tonk angel'), shop
names ('Tater Warner's hardware store on Main'), and the sonorous
speech of the Gospels: 'Let me testify' ... This is a poet with
a future." Alison Brackenbury
67, May 2010
exciting reading, poetry in an utterly distinctive voice ...
These poems are full of unease and energy, of humour and formal
grace, anguish and allusion ... She handles traditional forms
splendidly deserves a place in any modern anthology of
the sonnet, and she writes a mean sestina too; she registers
a particular kind of American speech without being false either
to it or to the forms she uses ... Her poetic voice is 'all
invitation' in its receptiveness but the poetry she makes out
of her 'open' voice is tightly disciplined ... Assured, accomplished,
zestful, wry this is an impressive and attractive collection."
After the Revival
Twenty-two, come from the underground,
you're through with the mine's night shift and wear coal
like vernix while playing Clair de Lune. Moths
the porch-lit screen door, and you've come to trust
ear for every chord. Dark note by note,
how many hours you've searched for songs that burn
like lustrous rock your damp neck creased with
your hands unclean only to be spurned
stars repeating, Time, Time, Time.
My only brother, in the pitch of sleep, may hymns
resolve for you. May your dreams be more than ash.
you climb to a house of light and blind
yourself at its windows, breathe its music in,
and beat your wings like prayers against the mesh.
Country-Western Singer's Ex-Wife,
Sober in Mendocino County, California
back East my late love's all coked up,
another cowgirl wannabe lying
at his feet while he plucks a Willie Nelson song
from his beer-soaked six string and complains nobody
understands a rebel's broken heart.
I've played her part, the star struck blonde in boots
denim mini, pert boobs, and brains to boot.
Whiskey fed, dreamy, how I talked him up,
a sequined Tammy to his George, my heart
a backstage bed I wanted him to lie in.
It proved too hard, and when a harder body
came along, he said, The party's over,
left me listening to "Sad Songs and Waltzes,"
Waylon, steel guitars that struck like a boot
to the face. But that's good country, right? A body
enamored with its bruises, praising its screw-ups,
the blood still wet in its wounds? Memory lies
as still as a rattlesnake until my heart
begging for its venom. Sink 'em in, my heart
says. I've been traveling on a horse called Music,
and he's brought me here to die. I'd be lying
if I said I didn't want to fill my ex's boots
with spit the night I caught him with that up-
start starlet at the bar; when everybody
to hide in their shot glasses; when nobody
but a Broadway street preacher had the heart
to hold my hair off my face while I threw up
outside; when all the songs I loved "Crazy,"
"Golden Ring," "Jolene" became
too busted to put on, bent-pitch ballads of his lies,
shame sung loud in the key of C. He's lying
from the stage, in the bar or bed, when he says nobody
understands him. I do. I've burned my boots,
moved west to wine and water because his heart
was a dry bottle, cold as the black rose
rotting in his lapel, and I still wake up
his tunes: the beer, blow, boots and love, the lies
they tell and don't. Once, I was a good-hearted woman.
Now I pray, Lord, please, somebody, shut him up.