Keep Insight & a Healthy Dose of Rage: A Review of Paloma by Jennifer E. Hudgens

If grief is another country, Jennifer Hudgen’s poems navigate that terrain like a native. Her chapbook from the ever amazing Blood Pudding Press, is a carnivalesque romp through loss using the often sharp edges of memory, keen insight and a healthy dose of rage at what is snatched from us without warning.

These 14 prose poems, unevenly spaced, startle with their pyrotechnic wordplay, as they call up the author’s memories and reminiscences, jumping in with both feet, explicit yet honest, full of blind rage at times, yet so tender and so evocative throughout that what she grieves, grieves the reader, too.

“1996,” the first poem in the book is a paean of sorts, serving as the backdrop of what is to come. In this poem we see life as it is lived by the young--- reckless and fearless, but with a milky film of fear and a bit of self-flagellation, as well:

You were the only one who believed me what I said what he did hurt

You were the only one who knew I was burying myself fin too much fat and flux.

We were sweet bitches feminist cunts before feminism was Internet

meme and pussy hat protests We were dykes/faggots Boys/Girls Fearless

Addictions -isms and broken-hearted bullshit.

But there is also love and tender protection and a sort of hope without any of the self-consciousness inherent in the emotion that life will continue to move alone---until it doesn’t’.

In the second poem, “Lauren Kate is Dead,” Hudgens narrates in poetic form the morning that she found out that her friend is dead. Here Hudgens is brilliant at juxtaposing the quotidian ----

Tuesday morning I sluggishly wake up to find a Facebook message

with the cold and brutal realization of the finality of death----

Everything touchable is freezing.

The balance of so many details interspersed with such a finely tuned poetic sensibility makes these poems often harrowing in the grief they express. But, it this is most important, a testament to both the extreme messiness of a life full of daring, disappointment, bravery, tears, love and all the rest.

Hudgens is painfully cognizant of the extreme beauty in this life, which we often cannot fully realize until it is cruelly and unexpectedly taken. Hudgens does an expert job at laying it out on the page. By the last poem, you feel as though you have glimpsed, in kaleidoscopic and panoramic fashion, a life worth living and loving. Still, memory and grief are nothing, if not persistent as she asks, in “Ten Pints”:

Is your ghost disgusted with the state of things

Are you in “The Upside Down” Is it cold in there Will the monster who did this

Ever pay?


By Jennifer E. Hudgens

Blood Pudding Press, 2018

You can purchase a copy of Paloma here.

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