Joie de Vivre
Selected Poems 1992-2012; City Lights Spotlight No. 9
"Poet Elizabeth Willis compares Lisa Jarnot to a mix of Johnny Cash and Gertrude Stein. The comparison works because Jarnot possesses both the raw lyrical pathos of Cash and the complex stylistics of Stein. Jarnot's experimental poems are highly oral pieces that flow effortlessly across the page. Some of the poems have a surrealist bent and strong sonic register that hovers in a musical sphere. In years past, Jarnot spent a lot of time in the Bay Area. One of the lines from her poem about Jack London Square in Oakland reveals her wit: "I am standing on the corner where Huey Newton got shot but you thought he was Huey Lewis." Originally from Buffalo and now living in New York City, Jarnot studied with the great Robert Creeley and seems to have the same control of language that he did."--Mike Sonksen, KCET
Rob Mclennan's Blog
"Through a variety of forms, the collection shows the tensile strength of Jarnot's writing over an extended period, and the mutability of what can be done with the line."—Rob Mclennan
"There's a pop-Romanticism, American to the core, behind the majority of Jarnot’s most easily enjoyable verse . . . . These poems orbit day to day reality on paths based off non sequiturs and randy loop de loops."--Patrick-James-Dunagan, The Rumpus
"Jarnot's poetry continues to resonate because–after the experimentation and language play–her poems still burst both with feeling and beauty. . . . Jarnot finds a way to capture a moment of emotional intensity with and in language, while simultaneously letting that moment retain the mystery and the wonder which it produces."—Joshua Ware, Vouched Books
"In surgical selections from four books and two chapbooks, Jarnot emerges as a unique force in post language lyric poetry. Her work reaches back to the recombinant spontaneity of Gertrude Stein's collage aesthetic and inflects it with William Carlos William's rigorous attention to the poem as a self contained machine whose rules are quite strict." --Ted Mathys, Rain Taxi.
"In this first retrospective of Jarnot's work, language’s power to transform the self is, through repetition, enacted: 'I am clinging to the baked goods and the liquor store, I am nearly Spanish and then nearly other things, I am cutting you with broken glass.' Balancing a honed, poised modern lyric with postmodern playfulness—in the vein of sometimes Stein ('tractor/ of chinchilla, chili of chinchilla, chill of the/ chinchilla, crosswalk of chinchilla of the dawn'), sometimes Stevens ('Inside of my inspection house there are/ things I am inside of lacking only linens/ and the tiniest of birds, there are small ideas/ of tiny birds and things they are inside of')—it’s clear that Jarnot’s earlier multimedia poetic experiments inform later poems, where each word or phrase is treated as an ingredient, accruing potency in quantity, some acting as generative hooks, lengthening and deepening a poem’s breath ('how terrific it is to be/ misled inside a hallway, and how terrific it is/ to be the hallway as it stands inside the house'), others as fixed points to keep us, in the dizzying dream logic of these riveting, long-winded works, balanced. Reading this work is truly a joy."
In these selected poems, which span Jarnot's 20-year career, she sends the flux of living language crashing into the controlled techniques of form. Her finest explorations include Cubist accretions of data from different angles, as when her speaker observes "that in the field the cows are mooing, that I love things, that they love me back, that the cows all love each other and the daisies." Jarnot is a master of such measured revelation, in no rush to reach a punch line. Other pieces move like the minimalist loops of Steve Reich or Philip Glass. Reading the poems' repeated phrases and reiterations is like listening to Jarnot adjust the tracking of a VHS tape’s misaligned image, zeroing in to achieve perfect focus. Once located, the result is devastating and pristine, as when she pictures a pastoral scene of "deer legs upturned in the snow, / wind-blown cow fur, grass fresh mown," and describes a pelagic view of “multitudinous seas incarnadine.” This compilation includes the best of Jarnot’s Whitmanesque reflections and Ginsbergian outcries, speech acts that list always toward an avant-garde.— Diego Báez
"For 20 years, Jarnot has refused to limit her sense of the poetic to language and line. Her ideas meddle in the traditions of form, medium, sound, and arrangement to recall the modernism of Joyce and Stein: 'in the spring, where on an uninhibited/ island I strangled all the shepherd girls and/ became a smallish book.' This selected highlights her inventiveness. Get to know Jarnot."