Sunday, December 11, 2011


Jennifer was a wonderful poet whose work I loved and died way too young. But she physically suffered for years and is now at peace.

I wrote a post on her work and her book that I was going to link to, but decided to just reproduce the most important parts here:

A fellow poet gave me Diskin's collection of poems, WEAR WHITE AND GRIEVE, because she wanted to turn me on to her work, and it succeeded. Diskin lives in Scranton and writes a kind of personal narrative poetry that a lot of poets do but is surprisingly difficult to make work. To create something unique in this form isn't easy or all that common. But she manages to do it.

Partially that's because her perspective feels unique when you read her, and partially I suspect it's because her frame of reference is a bit unique (quick, how many Scranton poets can you name, though in fact there's a thriving poetry scene there, as there is almost anywhere these days despite the general media tendency to ignore that reality) and partially because of her passion for poetry.

A great example of that is her author's note on the back which includes this: "She can't get enough of poetry, friends, Billie Holiday, and reading, reading, reading. She loves poems and would marry one if he were available."

You can see from that how already she's telling her story differently and yet completely accessibly. And it's no coincidence that Billie Holiday is on her list of what she can't get enough of. Like Holiday, Diskin's voice is original and plaintive in its own way, and equally as resilient and almost ironic in the face of disappointment and tragedy.

A lot of Diskin's poems in this collection are too long to quote in their entirety—like the knockout opening "Electric City"—and not all are about the trials she has faced that her poems are specific about in details but not in over all analysis (I'm assuming she suffers from some form of cancer and is still a fairly young woman), but here's one that gives a taste of her skill and clarity:


The doctor prepares my hip.
I've taken my Atvian.
I lay on my back.
There is no Barry Manilow Mandy
piped into the oncologist's office.

I lay on my back
and listen.
He tells me
my marrow will travel to New York City
to be studied.

Numbing takes a long time, then
the dull kiss into the bone.
As he pulls the needle through,
he says to the nurse he puts
white lights on his Christmas tree.

You read Newsweek in the waiting room.
Even when you hold my hand,
I miss touching.

Once the sample is collected,
the ache doesn't stop.

Put your fingers in my side.
My bruise is a blue delphinium
a spring I invent
surreal with snow.

My condolences to her family and friends—and fans, of which I was one.

[PS: Here's a great obituary for Jennifer.]


Round Bend Editor said...

Moving, and a true poem.


Terry Simons

Lally said...

And the tradgey of it was she was only 38. I posted a PS at the bottom of my post with a link to a good obituary for her.

tom said...

Sad - she seems an excellent poet and I will look for more of her work to read.

Kristen said...

I knew Jennifer in the mid 90's when I still lived in Scranton and she was already a poet with a lot to say. I would like to purchase a copy of her chapbook and read her more recent work. Do you know where I can find a copy?

Lally said...

I hear you Tom. She's well worth reading and remembering.
And Kristen, there's no street address I can find on her WEAR WHITE AND GRIEVE book for the publisher—Naissance—but there is an website, so you can try there. Otherwise I guess it'll be one of those books we have to search on the web and in rare bookstores for. And again, for my taste, well worth the effort.

tpw said...

I didn't know her work, but your post & the obituary are very persuasive as to her obvious talent. What a sad loss. Damn.

Lally said...

Totally. She was not only a terrific poet, but a great person to be around in my only experience of spending several hours with her after a reading. Bright, funny, frank, able to laugh at her own troubles as well as yours, etc. Her presence was one of those gifts given to the world far too briefly but living on in her poetry.