Poem: Jennifer Boyden’s “The Misunderstanding of Wool”

August 25, 2013 — Leave a comment

I discovered a new poet recently, Jennifer Boyden, and wanted to share a favorite poem, “The Misunderstanding of Wool.” One of my current interests is ecopoetry and landscape in historical poetry, and Boyden’s work examines the world in disquieting ways. The poem was originally published in The Adirondack Review and is included in Boyden’s second book, The Declarable Future.

The Misunderstanding of Wool
Jennifer Boyden

As if animals aren’t terrified of the blades
of their shearing. In the thrift stores, it is easy to see how
the wool of this town has been misunderstood.

It isn’t hard to find the ruins: woolen sailor pants, the funeral
suits and interview jackets, hats for shrunken heads, and now-
baby sweaters.

When I have assembled the pile, I begin to teach the wool
the old ways of their sheep and rabbits.
I remove false eyes of pearl buttons, cut the tags
of secondary origins. And then

I teach them heartbeat and bunching into corners, teach them
grass height for hiding and grass green for food, hawk shadow,
owl call, magpie lures and mimics.

The dry woolens must be reintroduced to oil
if they are to make it. They will need to be given back
to fear of the coming dog and bramble snags.

They must never trust water, or anything
that beckons with the reflection of ourselves.

***

I particularly like that the poem manages to depict the current, urban landscape that is, at the same time that it evokes the landscape that has been lost.

Jennifer Boyden’s two books are pictured below. The Mouths of Grazing Things won the Brittingham Prize in Poetry, and The Declarable Future won The Four Lakes Prize in Poetry. All of Boyden’s poems are arresting, and the framework with which Boyden views the world is both detailed and compassionate. I’m looking forward to future publications and readings.

Bio from her website (www.jenniferboyden.com): Boyden won a PEN Northwest Wilderness Writing Residency Award, which allowed her to live and write for nearly a year in a remote cabin in southern Oregon, and a Washington Artists’ Trust grant for a suite of essays about walking, how environment shapes movement and idea, and observations about how personal and public identities are affected by corporate influence and the removal of nature.

grazing_thingsdeclarable_future

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