Winner of the 2001 Associated Writing Programs’ Award in Poetry Selected by Marilyn Chin A poet with an artist’s eye, a painter with an ear for language, Gray Jacobik creates poems out of the mundane and extraordinary moments of our lives. Mirroring the structure of a Pollock painting, elegizing Larry Levis and avocados, reflecting on Johnny Depp’s “terribly surreal” life, embarking upon a seventy-two-line meditation on the color blue, exposing a lover’s—or a mother’s—secrets, Jacobik’s poems are mature, elegant, and crackling with energy.
At the center of these poems is a writer who is willing to open herself fully to the world's and living's beautiful strangeness and capricious painfulness. . . . Jacobik's poems always reach for, and often miraculously translate, the 'scintillate possibilities' within and beyond our reach.
These are poems of arriving and vanishing, mergings of classical concerns with dot-coms, blunt sexuality with wounded prayers. Debris and shabby truths are acknowledged and transformed into the Good. A lucid poetry, expertly crafted, amazing work.
Poet Marilyn Chin . . . says Jacobik merges poetry of the mind and poetry of the body. Her consideration of "Breasts" wraps physical and psychological reasons for anxiety about those organs in simple, sensual appreciation of them, ultimately to joyous effect. The villanelle "A Paradox," however, bitterly ponders a sister left in a vegetative state by an accident, to eventuate in the opposite effect, despite depending on similar though grimmer play between body and mind. Both those poems express the part of Jacobik's work that is more concerned with the body, and they come later in the book, after a first part full of more apparently mental poems about art. In those, aesthetic reactions sometimes yield nagging physicalities; in "Surrealisme," Jacobik stunningly portrays how an artistic conception forged by cafe loungers altered general reality so that now "few can imagine permanency or integrity in anything." In "Existence as Performance," she argues a reverse process, that by which stars - her example is Johnny Depp - get lost in their roles, for themselves, perhaps, as well as their audiences: flesh becomes conception. Jacobik's poems require constant attention to their mind-body interplay, but her skillful prosody, straightforward syntax, and common vocabulary make that gratifying work.
There is a rawness of personal truth, the shabbiness of things done out of necessity, of things done to one against one's will, and yet the chance to find beauty in the mundane, meaning the accumulated daily moments that are forgotten or spruned or categorized as detritus, but in which she can find transcendence, or some power in transforming these moments, or if neither of these at least the keen eye to record such particulars.
Gray Jacobik, a professor of literature at Eastern Connecticut State University, received the Juniper Prize for her The Double Task and the X. J. Kennedy Poetry Prize for The Surface of Last Scattering.