Jill Stengel

Jill Stengel is a poet, publisher of a+bend press, and parent of three young children. Formerly of San Francisco and Los Angeles, she now resides with her family in Davis, CA. Several of her serial poems have appeared in chapbook form: cartography (1999, WOOD); History, Possibilities : (1999, a+bend press); ladies with babies (2003, Boog); lagniappe (2008, Nous-Zot Press, Dusie Kollektiv); late may (2007, Dusie); may(be) (2006, Dusie); and the forthcoming and I would open (Ypolita) and wreath (Texfiles). Some of these chapbooks, and individual poems, can be viewed online as well as in print, and she has new work in the forthcoming anthology Kindergarde. Her first full-length collection is forthcoming from Black Radish Books in 2010.

What is (or has been) your favorite editing project and why?

Begun in San Francisco in 1999, a+bend press published 40 chapbooks in its first 20 months of existence. I produced the chapbooks in conjunction with my reading series, Second Sundays at BlueBar, held in the poetically-historically famous North Beach district of San Francisco.

The press took a chapbook-publishing hiatus for nine years, during which time I produced three children and five issues of the journal mem, focusing on writing by women mothering young children, and page mothers. Now the hiatus is on hiatus: a new a+bend press chapbook was released at the end of 2009.

dear Jenna—

day in the sun—picture window, streaming light, yellow walls—still a bit brisk outside—inside, cat in the sunny spot warm—a new café—little press-pots for each—the niceties of urban living—pages on a table, pens—all the promises of poet life—ripe with the moment—brand-new press—so much come into being after long dream—your book—recipe for favorite: you plus your poetry, add some Jewish experience, dash of Meltzer, silence, utterance, paper, ink—real ink, not just toner—letterpress cover to come after its art built—the time—lush sunshine—

nearly eleven years later, so much—

[insert life—lives—years—miles & navigations—more lives—]

but the book continues—document—not only your work, your words, but this time—magic—brand-new brand-new—everything possible—

and isn’t it still?

no, not everything—
but what matters—maybe—
maybe so—

what matters changes—

possibility—the idea of possibility—the very possibleness of possibility—possibility perseveres

with love,

as a post-script, dear Jenna—your postcard idea—alert family, friends—this new press, this dreamer, here, this moment in poetry—your generosity, and theirs—the hope this instilled—immeasurable—not only hope, but, again, possibility—that this could matter—

what a welcome you provided—your encouragement, profound—

and I did it, Jenna—I made something worthwhile—

look what we all have made—

excerpt from Dear Jack

Dear Jack

Today I spoke with you
as if we were having
a conversation.

we were witty.

   ◊    ◊    ◊

I struck small keys
with the letters of your
                my fingers filling
for a moment the small

   ◊    ◊    ◊

I have no reason to think
of you this way

I cannot help myself

   ◊    ◊    ◊

Dear Jack—

I want to write you
big long poems, love
poems or other sorts
of poems, poems with
meaning, poems with importance,
poems with something to say.

Instead, I think
of you and I’m all-
a-jitter and the method
of expression I’m most
familiar with falls away
into fits, starts, sputters and worse.

As so often happens
with you, I am left
with nothing.


   ◊    ◊    ◊

Dear Jack—

A gulf, and throwing
rope or something
to the other side

How many times
How many times

before the rope
recoiled       departs


   ◊    ◊    ◊

Dear Jack—

There are no poems
for your skin

There are no poems
for your eyes

There are no poems
for your lips

There are no poems
for your body, your
beauty, your grace
and all—

There are no poems
for you my Jack

These poems are
all for me.

   ◊    ◊    ◊

Dear Jack—

The light in the room
and your movements,

certain I missed a beat

pretending everything
the same nothing amiss

except my heart like dust
motes scattered in the sun filled room


   ◊    ◊    ◊

Dear Jack—

Or someone else. Or
someone else.

   ◊    ◊    ◊

Dear Jack—

you are what I make you

   ◊    ◊    ◊

Dear Jack,

I can draw your
face but never from

   ◊    ◊    ◊

Dear Jack—

should there be air
on the other side

and how to breathe it


   ◊    ◊    ◊

Dear Jack

If you thought you
were special

you were


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