The Space Between by Jill Jupen
Jill Jupen was born and grew up in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. Her poems have been published in numerous literary journals and her poem ’The Space Between’ was nominated for a Pushcart prize in 2015. Since 2000 she has lived on the island of Martha’s Vineyard where she heads the ‘Martha’s Vineyard Poets’ Collective’. She lives with her husband, five dogs and a whole lot of books.
This is her first book. It's stunningly good. But don't take our word for it -
here is a review :
"From the introductory poem that shares this sharp and succinct collection’s title, Jill Jupen’s speakers in The Space Between, reach out to and from the soul. Only through this experienced lens of someone who has lived enough life in that “space between” can we absorb the shared realities, feel the deepness in the mundane, feel the wonder even in tragedy, and ponder all the complexities in a simple, single moment.
The power is in the brevity of the poem “The Space Between” to state something so real, so common, so heartbreaking in a simple, direct, and almost matter of fact manner and tone. The poem’s short words, short lines, and short length deliver a message that sticks with you because the language is so accurate. The first three stanzas highlight the almost out of body feeling of suddenly not being one with the self, “The glass/on the table/ is moments away/from the water I pour”, and that lack of inner connection leading to the inability to hold onto connection outside, which the last stanza so painfully, yet pointedly, portrays, “The tenderness/I thought I felt/is gone/ before my hand/ever reaches your arm”.
Perhaps in any time, but especially at present when it is ever easier to check out from what is going on around us, a strong poem must shake the reader awake, but an even stronger poem can shake us with a hand that seems to belong to a dear, well intentioned, and wise, old friend. as once again the speaker has in “8 December, 1980”. The poem, about the day John Lennon died, begs of us, almost requires, an examination of personal and shared past with a renewed urgency. So vividly does it show the balancing act of a new parent in a changing era as she tries to reconcile an evolving identity, betrayal by one close “Did you hear? Another hippie gone”, and the events of the world around her “because we dared/to love a man we didn’t know”, all while the “baby/sat in his highchair eating cheerios”. As specific as the context of this complete and rich snapshot is, the poem’s portrayal of the inherent internal and external conflicts of womanhood and life transcend.
Another standout, “Fortune Cookies”, provides a future that may also be a past with all the declarative “written” certainty, mixed with blind interpretation, that those little printed scraps of paper in the cookies have to offer. The juxtaposition between the randomness of one’s particular life and the way we, especially as we age, realize we might share more commonalities with others than we thought resonates. So whether there is really is “a road trip with Bill Murray” or whether one is lucky enough to “meet Art Garfunkel/in a lobby of a Miami movie theater” in the future, if you are a women, “you will ruminate too much”, and generalization or not, that’s just true. Sorry, it’s true. As a writer myself, I can’t help but appreciate the reversal of a common sentiment that life and experience cannot be expressed in words, in the last two lines of the poem, “The lived experience/cannot express the written word.” Of course, it can’t, or at least not as profoundly, not as articulately, and not as indicative as we might wish it to.
There are simply no pretenses in this collection. Jupen’s poems deliver truth, perhaps as hard to swallow as it in life like in the perfectly compact and my personal favorite poem “The Dog”, but always with an instinctual type of hope and an almost recycled sense of what it means to be alive that asks us to question, yet also pleads with us to let go and just feel as the final lines of the final poem in the collection, “A Bouquet of Birds”, express better than perhaps I could, “There’s a cardinal/in your ribcage./Feel it flutter”. Read this work, feel the flutter, you’ll “feel” better for it."
Katy E. Whittingham
Bridgewater State University
Bridgewater, MA 02325