Martenson’s poems are narratives of thinking. They are landscapes in which abstract concepts have the presence and force of physical objects—you may hit your head on them. The focus is on dissonance, whether between perception and received ideas, between feelings and convention, between lesbian identity and social prejudice, or between the desire to make the world orderly, intelligible, and finding the systems for doing so wanting and ambiguity everywhere. The diverse forms push against words in single file, against the ways syntax projects coherence and smoothes over disjunctions.
Jennifer Martenson was born in Seattle, spent a number of years in Chicago and now lives in Providence, RI. She works in libraries and is both a musician and a poet. Burning Deck has published Xq281 as a chapbook. Unsound is her first full book.
“Concise, extraordinarily thoughtful, often challenging, and sometimes sexy, Martenson’s debut could find admirers far beyond the East Coast avant-garde that seems its natural home. She’s certainly a thinker, and her strongest sentences ask how thoughts—her own, but also society’s stereotypes—at once create and interfere with apparently natural, visceral pleasure and pain… Honesty and desire (especially lesbian desire) are hard to consider apart from received ideas, but impossible to portray accurately within them: often abstract, sometimes typographically odd, the couplets and prose poems strain against the dilemma they portray, while never failing (once you look hard) to make sense.”
— Publishers Weekly
“Martenson explores the relationship between space, sound, movement, time and reality in fascinating ways. She opens her poem, “Intimate Conversations,” by saying, “Scattered hues of green do not amount / to a body of water, and yet here we are, / skipping stones on it.” This is a truly wonderful poem, both smart and beautiful.”
—Christine Kanownik, newpages (April 10)
“There is scientific inquiry here, yet mixed with intimate urgency, which begets a keen sense of the fragility of assumptions and love… These poems, long afterward, intriguingly linger.”
—James Wagner, Esther Press
“Unsound” is a 62-page compendium of truly memorable poetry expertly crafted by Jennifer Martenson who has not only a gift for expression but a talent for visual layout with respect to the printed page. Of special note is her unique ability to put free-form verse to work with expressive reflection with respect to ideas, thinking, and human communication.