Winner of the 2017 May Sarton New Hampshire Poetry Prize
Jen Town’s poetry collection The Light of What Comes After is an autobiographical mosaic of memory and dreams that speaks to all of us trying to make some semblance of aging and what it means to live well. Tonally there is a back and forth throughout the poems: we see through the bold, colored lens of the inner-child fed on dreams, standing on tiptoe to look ahead, and also through the uncertain, remembering eyes of an adult trying to anchor themselves as life rushes by.
author of A Camouflage of Specimens and Garments
The Light of What Comes After offers a sure manifesto against the domestic and cosmetic. Jen Town’s poems are wry and aware; within them, we find dead oregano, girls in pastels, and smoked bees, as well as a speaker calling plaintively: “Hear me. I am / a fraud” as she holds “a plate of cherries / on the verge of rot.” Town’s rich linguistic moments and surprising imagery lend her voice a slant which can seem playful and unafraid, but warning is always stitched just below the surface. This is a writer who knows “Your debts / are more than you’ll ever pay back.”
author of Meditations Before the Windows Fail
In Jen Town’s The Light of What Comes After, the magical world promised to children becomes stories that can leave destitute the inner lives of those children become adults. The only proper response seems to be to go along with it, “rotating/like a ballerina/in a music box,” . . . to dance . . . through this world of make believe . . . all the while knowing how little can be known. . . . These distinctly adult poems lovingly unsettle the settled world, and . . . give us, anew, what “was called myth,” having imbued it with a disturbing and evocative relevance. A marvelous, inventive romp.
author of Sycamore
It is so easy to love this book, when poem after poem offers us lines like: “She was raised in the Rah Rah School / of frosting and first snows,” and “Here I am / which is where? I need / to know.” In The Light of What Comes After, the ballerina asleep in the jewelry box emerges, fully awake and alive, to interrogate the lies perpetrated on the childhood of girls, which are also the ongoing lies of history. Town’s light is the painful light of self-knowledge and truth. And what a transformative and dazzling light it is: “a fairy tale going off like a grenade / in your hands.”
author of Hard Child
“I waited for you,” writes Jen Town, “with a slip / of a message you’d burn after I’d gone.” And, true to its word, this is a book that lies in wait, always about to burst into flame. Town’s beautiful and expertly controlled poems offer sly explorations of language and landscape, domesticity and decoration, costume and confinement. This collection may wax rhapsodic about the ephemeral, but these poems have staying power to spare.
Jen Town’s poetry has appeared in Mid-American Review, Cimarron Review, Epoch, Third Coast, Lake Effect, Crab Orchard Review, Unsplendid, Bellingham Review, and others. Born in Dunkirk, New York and growing up in Erie, Pennsylvania, Town went on to earn her MFA in Creative Writing from The Ohio State University in 2008. She lives in Columbus, Ohio, with her wife, Carrie.