Rookie Report: TJ Jarrett
Ain’t No Grave
New Issues Press
Imagine his surprise, disoriented
in the dark and damp of the tomb—
all alone, all at once. Hadn’t he quit
the flesh, wearied of Martha’s nagging,
don’t bother yourself Lazarus, don’t strain
yourself Lazarus, and his sister Mary’s
muffled cries? Then the knock. Then the
calling of his name. Did he turn his back
to the sound at first, cry out: It’s early yet.
Say: Not now. Ask: Why me? Then the
voice of the weeping boy-god who
summoned him. Could he not unburden
himself of that skinsack with the ribboned
muslin that bound him? Did the light from the
opened door blind? When he staggered from the tomb,
did he first hear the wind’s bloated sigh above the land;
or see the shapes of his sisters barreling toward him
blurred in his sight, or hear the flat-footed cadence
of their approach? How could any one sense measure
their jubilee? Did he rejoice with them or was three days
long enough to miss any one thing, even the earth?
How does a body flooded with sweet air compare
to heaven? How small now this earth, how tinny
its birdsong. How sloven the tree’s corporeal array.
Late Night Library: Summarize your book in 10 words or fewer.
TJ Jarrett: A family and American race relations of the early 20th century.
LNL: If this book were the lovechild of two others, who are its parents?
TJJ: Cane by Jean Toomer and What Work Is by Phillip Levine.
LNL: What ingredients go into the recipe of your writing style?
TJJ: I put in everything (nails and tiaras and wrenches and string), and then I remove everything that I find unnecessary.
LNL: Name one book you wish you could read again for the first time.
TJJ: The Count of Monte Cristo by Dumas. I would read it at my grandmamma’s in Mississippi every summer because I think it was one of five or six books in her house that was fiction and not an encyclopedia. I read that, too.
LNL: Answer a question you wish people would ask you about writing.
I don’t start writing a poem until I feel it’s ready to come out. I call it ‘crowning’ sometimes as if my body can’t hold it in anymore and I must stop everything and write it down.
Get your copy of Ain’t No Grave from Indiebound
TJ Jarrett is a writer and software developer in Nashville, Tennessee. Her recent work has been published or is forthcoming in African American Review, Boston Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, Boxcar Poetry Review, Callaloo, DIAGRAM, Ninth Letter, Linebreak, Rattle, Southern Poetry Anthology, Third Coast, West Branch and others. Her debut collection Ain’t No Grave was recently published with New Issues Press. Her second collection, Zion (winner of the Crab Orchard Open Competition 2013) will be published by Southern Illinois University Press in the fall of 2014.