The Sliding Boat Our Bodies Made

The Sliding Boat Our Bodies Made

No one’s being watched/though watchfulness remains” in Barber’s most accomplished collection, because an intimate watchfulness births these exquisite poems. Their omniscient power blazons any corner of consciousness so that “A tree rubs a cloud between its fingers,” a seedpod answers a questionnaire, a creation myth breathes anew, and a museum goer’s intent gaze at a painting’s three oranges causes them to “glow like coals in you.” Her elegant, steely, and elegiac prowess brings to the present a 1412 Spanish court order to segregate the Jews from the Christians as well as a memory of her daughter—now “heading out” to her boyfriend’s—as a toddler first standing “at the center of the world.” Ultimately watchful of love’s relationship to both loss and beauty, Barber’s concomitant revelations remain aglow in us.

—JESSICA GREENBAUM, author of Spilled and Gone

To see the world as it is, to see ourselves as we are within it. This asks that we be open to misery and beauty alike, that we embrace moments of perplexity and loss alongside the visions of wholeness. A spiritual practice of this sort guides Jennifer Barber in these new poems that range from an imagined Mesopotamia to the sickbed of a loved one, from a dog’s barking that “sounds more and more like a question” to a mother who remembers when her daughter stood at the center of the world, in “overalls and round white shoes.” With poetic precision and utmost emotional nuance, Barber invites us to see what beauty the world gives, and too often and too quickly takes away. The result: poems that shimmer with clarity, care, and love.

—FRED MARCHANT, author of Said Not Said

In The Sliding Boat Our Bodies Made, we see the ecology of compassion and hopefulness, a fragile latticework made of the concern for how all things might fall away in a world seeming to be too full of loss. With a meticulousness like the Zen of poets in ancient China, Barber takes us to a place where we can believe there will always be a chance to breathe, even as we feel the terror of life in the beauty of its most minute details. These are finely crafted poems with turns on the torso of history and the times in which we live as if those things are a single tree of life, and they are. Barber teaches us how to know subtlety, how it can bring a fullness to us, a light without limits.

—AFAA M. WEAVER, author of Spirit Boxing