Literature 9-26-2006

What Light: This Week’s Poem: Jen March

Jen March is the next poet in the series "What Light: This Week's Poem," a feature sponsored by Magers and Quinn Booksellers that brings you a poem every week by a Minnesota poet, selected by a panel of writers and publishers.

Jen March


someone asks a question about translation.


i look up french poetry, the first i find

jacques prévert.

of his three short love poems (poesie des amours)

immense et rouge
le jardin


i can translate everything but two words:
i see star and say flower
i see above and say loss.

let this poem, like your life,
be dictated by others.,

your friend’s mother
took the car and left the cell phone—wrote:
i have been a terrible mother. my children have terrible problems.
i have been a terrible wife. i make life terrible for my husband.

let this poem, like your worry,
do nothing to change the outcome.

she comes home

how do we translate?
terrible—her word.

and how do the children and husband explain—

you have never been this thing—her word.

this morning when i called my mother, who lives alone,
she told me it was lonely when she had to divorce her first husband.
life had always been lovely, fun. everyone called you darling,
you called everyone darling.

then she was married, a mother, and her husband…
this was 15 years before i was born. and before this
darling, darling.

my mother says:

then i married your father and he died and i had you.
i used to wonder when i would get to live my life, now
i say, this is my life.

this is my life:
i walk outside to pick flowers, and return
palms burning—

my hands full of stars.


As a poet, I am constantly asking questions about life and death. I am concerned with love, loss, and grief, and with the struggle to find reason in living. In Alice Fulton’s essay Of Formal, Free, and Fractal Verse, she talks about creating a form for the poem that is born out of the work itself, and shaped in part by certain repeated words or images. I think about this when considering how my poem will sit on the page as a reflection of living—what pattern exists in uncertainty; what dichotomy creates the whole?


Jen March is a poet in the MFA program at Hamline University in St Paul. She is a founding member of Hamline University’s Graduate Liberal Studies student group, West Egg Literati, which sets up literary readings in the Twin Cities, and is publishing a literary magazine of GLS student work. She was on the editorial board for the 2006 issue of Water~Stone Review, and is completing a summer internship at the Minnesota Center for Book Arts. Her work has appeared in Freshwater and The Northridge Review.