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Likely Stories: Bloodstories - A Cycle of 28 Poems by Jenuine Poetess

A moving collection of poems of reflection on women’s issues

I’m Jim McKeown, welcome to Likely Stories, a weekly review of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and biographies.

Jenuine Poetess is the pre-eminent feminist poet in Waco.  According to the brief biography in the book, she has had a wide-ranging and diverse career as a poet, ranging from California, to Italy, and now Texas.  She founded the Waco Poets Society in 2013 as well as a grassroots writing circle project with chapters in Los Angeles, Texas, and Lebanon.  The Jenuine’s poetry is “Rooted in the conviction that creative health is a matter of justice, [she] organizes arts programming in her community and ponders ways to disrupt the homeostasis.  Bloodstories will set your mind to thinking deep thoughts.

Here is a sample of her work, and my favorite in this collection.  In the poem, [nourish], she writes, “I need poetry / because someone is erasing history // I need your stories / our stories / Earth stories and bloodstories / Sea stories and bone stories / carved on our teeth and our cells // I need Great Grandmother stories / and Medicine Man stories // I need the stories of the Wind / and those of the trees / before they too / are cut down / and disappeared / right before our eye // I need them in my ears / in my chest / I need to swallow them whole / to be tasted over my lifetime // I need to stitch them / into the pockets of my soul / so wherever I travel / I carry them / a part of me // engrave them onto the sky / spell them out with stars / dig them up out of their graves / whisper them into the rocks // they are trying to unmake history / unraveling the fabric of knowledge / they are unteaching our children / with hollowed out imposters / pretending and whitewashing // look under the carpet / they have swept / all the stories there / locked the door / swallowed the key // I need us-stories / the sustenance of / thriving // I need poetry because / someone / is erasing Truth” (33-34).

Another shorter poem, [flow], reads, “so many bloodstories / they won’t stop / flowing / there is no gauze / no wrap / no salve / to clot the blood // only ink / bleeding into my page / entire lifetimes / within each drop” (30).  Another interesting poem is [in service of the word], which uses the title of a book by Natalie Goldberg in the second line.  Jenuine writes, “we are / writing down the bones / taking dictation / of their verse / the muse is in our marrow / this poetry / holds us up / gives us our form / our matter / moves us to dancing / holds our grief / like rings on a tree / cycles round and ripe / cut them open / and you will find / all our stories spilling out / the deep red blood of / our throbbing / our thriving” (28).

I have been through this collection slowly over several weeks, and after each reading, ideas and emotions took shape.  As a disclaimer, Jenuine is a friend of mine, and I will admit to a swell of hesitation when she signed my copy of the book.  It is hard to read the work of a friend, and harder still to criticize it.  These poems are powerful; they are full of emotion, but they are also filled with love for life.  And as one critic wrote, “This poet sings with a timeless, soulful lyricism.”  Bloodstories: A Cycle of 28 Poems by Jenuine Poetess is available through Yellow Chair Press in Waco, TX.  5 stars

Likely Stories is a production of KWBU.  I’m Jim McKeown.  Join me again next time for Likely Stories, and happy reading!

Life-long voracious reader, Jim McKeown, is an English Instructor at McLennan Community College. His "Likely Stories" book review can be heard every Thursday on KWBU-FM! Reviews include fiction, biographies, poetry and non-fiction. Join us for Likely Stories every Thursday featured during Morning Edition and All Things Considered with encore airings Saturday and Sunday during Weekend Edition.