This is a collection of poems about dreaming, thinking, moving and changing. When I was creating the manuscript, I learned – again – that each poem means something different when it’s next to another, different from what it means when it’s alone. Each time I create a book, whether it’s poetry or prose, this phenomenon of connection is a source of amazement to me. I’m repeatedly amazed because, look, here it is again – all this shifting and sliding, this making of new meanings! I can predict this will happen, structurally speaking, even with chapters of prose – but I can’t know what the new meanings will be. Most of the poems in this chapbook are fairly recent; some were written several years ago. I added the older ones when the new meaning phenomenon kicked in. They floated up to the surface of my mind and memory because this sequence, this source of new meaning, called for them.
Suppose we could telephone the dead. – Jane Cooper
What’s it like out where you are?
Is it anything we make up, alive and imagining?
Is it something I can know, or so much not
what we think, I won’t know even if you tell me?
Is it forever? Is it like religion says? Do you laugh?
Is there music? Is there eating? Sleeping?
And if you sleep, do you dream?
Do you have work? Are the dead a good audience? Do they get it?
Can you go where you want, or is death organized
by time and geography, like living?
Can you fly? Can you see me? Are you coming back?
Will you come home, to the prairie where you used to be?
Or go somewhere else and live in another language?
Will you be someone else? A wolverine, or a stalk of corn?
You might be tomatoes or apples, or spinach on Steve’s farm.
Do you still have cancer when you’re dead?
Or does it go away after it kills you? Are you angry?
Or is there peace in death? What is peace? Can you tell me?
From opening doors inside of dreams to learning lessons from a mountain, from recalling the drowning of Virginia Woolf to telephoning the dead, Judith Arcana pursues both consciousness and lived experience as a seeker of beauty and skeptic of truth. At the heart of the experiences in this book are the elements — fire, water, earth, and sky — that capture the poet’s imagination and give ballast to her world. And there are implied relationships too …. as if The Parachute Jump Effect unveils the seedbed for camaraderie, for connection, for bridging the gap from the celestial to the terrestrial, and for locating the pleasures of memory and time.
- David Biespiel
To read Judith Arcana’s poems in The Parachute Jump Effect, is to feel utterly spoken to. The voice is confiding, intriguing, sometimes humorous, but laced with ominous truths, as in the first two dream poems. There’s great energy in the colloquial language: “Ok, All Right, Yes” ... enchants me with the rightness of its tone. (“You think you’ll live until you die/and hey—ok, all right, yes/you can have that one/that one’s got to come true.”) The collection is held together by its exploration of the thinking process involved in looking for life’s meaning .... [and] uses lyrical language to describe the search. At the shore the narrator is “searching/for what I can’t see as the waves come at me, opening the beach/right under my feet, capturing me/in the swirling tide-quickened sand.” And while these poems invite the reader inside the poet’s mind, they are never abstract as they wander through bakeries and kitchens, drop in on Montana and Colorado and Chicago, and reach the parachute jump that satisfyingly rounds off the book.
- Judith Barrington