The Shaky Phase (Stalking Horse Press) Is Divine

The Shaky Phase by Jessie Janeshek is Sublime Disorientation at its Best.

Open any page of The Shaky Phase and be plunged into the most sublime disorientation in poetic form possible. Every collection needs an entry point and this one is easy: the title gives the first and best glimpse into the effect of the poems on the reader. The transcendent in poetry has become more important to me as time goes on: I want to forget the world that I am in, I want to escape linear logic, I want things to make sense in the implausibility, to feel off balance and to push my understanding not just too the edge, but over it.

What Janeshek manages to do in this wholly absorbing collection is place me where I have never been before, and surely where I do not belong, which by all means makes me want to be there all the more. These poems exhibit hard edges, discordant images and all the truth you always wanted to say but never wanted to hear. The first poem in the collection “Best in Show” sets the tone overall: I grow up wreathed/in the Pontiac’s highbeams/swallow drawbridges/sink femurs in cedar. It ends with the same tone, revealing, perhaps, an ideology of how this thing called life often goes: Abscess, Adolescence/I get my grasp back/creek rising, god willing/angry and jealous/snowmelt surrounding/my leopeardskin dress. The image of that dress is also a theme that runs through the collection, one of almost distributed glamour that has seen better days, that yearns without trying too hard. This glamour takes its licks, lives for another day in what one can imagine to be blonde with black roots broken heels and smeared lipstick. In “It’s All the Blonde Turned Black’s Fault” the speaker’s lips “shake with radium”. In “Hydrotheraphy,” a “diamond shaped mask” is what protects one from the malignant reality of dreams where being “beat” is progress.

It is so tempting to pull out all of the individual themes in this collection, because they all converge beautifully, but I remain fascinated by the near contortions, both in a literal and figurative way, the body is put through its paces, how it is disguised, embellished, nearly beaten into submission and adorned with an almost ghoulish couture as a veil between the physical and the mental, between survival and riding a fallen rainbow into an existential , broken Hollywood Boulevard of those sniffing the miasma of what might, but will probably never be.

Janeshek is a master of symbols, phrases, the blending of the shadowy past, the vapid present and the offspring produced from the union: shaky , yes, , but alive as well, perhaps evidenced best in “Call It Lead Woman Syndrome”: Every rising seems exhausting/so we turn off our fight/don’t have time for cigarettes or articulation. We don’t ask for details. We’re fertile./In spring.

Publication Information:

The Shaky Phase

By Jessie Janeshek

Stalking Horse Press, 2017


91 pp