"Every song of grief," writes Jennifer Franklin, "is still a song." Where does the impulse to such a song come from? What enables the poet to transform her portion of woe into language that is kin to what a bird at dawn might sing? How is it that what we make out of our suffering sometimes helps us find our way? These haunting, beautiful poems show us that it just might be our capacity for love that guides and sustains us through the pain. It is in our care for one another that we sometimes find our lives touching upon the infinite. To be reminded of that is no small gift to each of us.
There is no evading Franklin’s forceful mastery of language. With her deft precision, sharp as a surgeon’s knife, she constructs gorgeous songs from the blinding heaps of tragedy, alchemically transforming brutality into music, both soothing and beautiful. This is her weapon, her force field, and her calling as she writes in Another School: “If only I could calm their bodies that/cannot keep still—tell them that I too/drown the silences of this world with my/own song.”
Near the beginning of Jennifer Franklin’s NO SMALL GIFT, Nietzsche, on the brink of madness, looks into the eyes of a brutally beaten horse on the street and sees the shock in that gaze turn “to recognition, to resignation, to an eye/ reflecting a field full of fallen horses.” Passage through that field of betrayal seems, in these artful, unsparing poems, the only way toward love, which comes after loss, after the damages, on a path lit up by what we make, the art “that keeps us from dying of the truth."