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Extranjera / Stranger

Published in 2015 by Editorial Yagaurú, Montevideo, Uruguay (ISBN 9789974719170)

This poetry collection is about learning a new language and finding a new life in Uruguay, the smallest of Spanish-speaking Latin American countries. The twenty-eight poems were written in Spanish and then translated into English for this bilingual publication. In the United States, poems from the collection have appeared in Bosque, the Los Angeles Review, Mantis, and Prairie Schooner, among other magazines.

“Jesse Lee Kercheval has ‛traveled’ from her original French to the English of the United States and from there to the Spanish of Uruguay, which she has turned into poetry. . . .   Like a fruit—like a tangerine peeling itself—she strips away the layers of language and gains access to a Spanish with an enormous vitality, sincerity and transparency.”
—Circe Maia

Four of the poems from Extranjera / Stranger can be found online at Hinchas de Poesía: a Digital Codex of Contemporary Pan-American Poetry.

torres towers

Torres / Towers

Published by Editorial Yagaurú, Montevideo, Uruguay, 2014 (ISBN 9789974719019)

These twin chapbooks were designed by the Uruguayan artist and poet Gustavo Wojciechowski to resemble the towers of the World Trade Center in New York. Torres is the original Spanish poem, and Towers is its English translation. Both contain a single long poem written on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of 9/11.

“Towers is a book of poems but also it is a single poem that speaks of towers. Not only the twin towers that fell, but the idea of falling and rising. The zeppelin, dirigible, and balloon turn in circles and finally fall, but not before revealing relationships with all that passed below them. In English and Spanish, Jesse Lee Kercheval writes with the same delicacy, the same brevity, the same ease flying from association to association. Words come and go, simulating life’s instability, but also its urge to endure just by the act of speaking, developing the idea in as few words as possible. The fragments that comprise Towers repeat like images in a song—a tango, since the Rio de la Plata is where the fall happened and the poetry was inspired. This is the poetry of Kercheval—poetry which captures an instant encompassing the past and projects it forward and upward.”
—Roberto Appratto

An online version of Torres / Towers can be found at La Fovea.

cinema muto Cinema Muto

2009 Crab Orchard Open Selection Award winner selected by David Wojahn (ISBN 0-80932895X)

Cinema Muto examines the enduring themes of time, mortality, and love as revealed through the power of silent film. Following the ten days of the annual film festival Le Giornate del Cinema Muto in Italy, these ekphrastic poems are love letters to the evocative power of silent cinema. Kercheval’s poems elegantly capture the allure of these rare films, which compel hundreds of pilgrims from around the world—from scholars and archivists, to artists and connoisseurs—to flock to Italy each autumn. Cinema Muto celebrates the flickering tales of madness and adventure, drama and love, which are all too often left to decay within forgotten vaults. As reels of Mosjoukine and D. W. Griffith float throughout the collection, a portrait also emerges of the simple beauty of Italy in October and of two lovers who are drawn together by their mutual passion for an extinct art. Together they revel in recapturing “the black and white gestures of a lost world.”
“Jesse Lee Kercheval’s Cinema Muto is a richly complex and marvelously inventive sequence—proudly sui generis in its ability to combine a quirky and individual lyric voice with a novelistic narrative. We can’t help but delight in the book’s surprises and genre-hopping, but Kercheval’s ultimate intent is elegiac: the book is not merely a lament for a lost art form, but a bittersweet reckoning with all things transient, including ourselves. If justice were poetic, a movie adaptation of Cinema Muto would be soon to follow.”
— David Wojahn

More reviews can be found here, and the book can be purchased here.

Here are three poems from the collection.

film history as train
              wreck Film History as Train Wreck

Winner of the 2006 Center for Book Arts Chapbook Prize, selected by Albert Goldbarth

Film History as Train Wreck was published as a letterpress chapbook designed, printed, and bound by Barbara Henry in a signed and numbered edition of 100.

The book can be purchased here.

chartreuse Chartreuse

Published in 2005 by Hollyridge Press (ISBN 0-9752573)

The book can be purchased here.

Here are three poems from the collection.

Dog Angel cover Dog Angel

Published in 2004 by the University of Pittsburgh Press (ISBN 0-822958406)

Full of wit, vivid language, and devastating honesty, these autobiographical poems trace the timelines of life forward and backward. In them Kercheval offers a moving examination of the role of family and the possible/probable/hoped for existence of God—and how our perceptions of the divine can be transformed from a kindergartner’s dyslexically scrawled “doG loves U” to the ever-present but oft-ignored Dog Angel of the title.

Ranging from a cross-country drive to bury her mother’s ashes at Arlington National Cemetery, to a family vacation in Spain, to an imagined final exam given by her children, Kercheval explores the vagaries of love, loss, faith, grief, and joy with a calm, convincing wisdom that permeates this resonant and wonderful collection.

Reviews can be found here, and the book can be purchased here.

Here are a few poems from the collection.

World as Dictionary
              cover World as Dictionary

Published in 1999 by Carnegie Mellon University Press (ISBN 0-88748-285-6)

From the powerful and unforgettable opening sequence which recounts, with passionate intensity and uncompromising honesty, the death of a dear friend from cancer; through the wonderful middle poems on the complex pleasures of marriage, motherhood, and family life; to the final meditations on the poets own intractable childhood; World as Dictionary explores the vagaries of love, loss, desire, and will. At times heartbreaking and elegiac, mourning a ‘universe that is racing from us / at the speed of light / and . . . is never coming back,’ Kercheval is also unswervingly affirmative, celebrating with her infant daughter (whose word for ‘open’ expands her world), ‘Ope, ope, ope . . . we live in hope. / My daughter claps her hands. Fierce, intimate, lyrical, profound, and true, World as Dictionary is a beautiful, beautiful book. A book that lives in hope. A book that claps its hands.
—Ron Wallace

Reviews can be found here, and the book can be purchased here.