Vanessa Jackson's newest book of poems is out in the world, from Iron Press out of Newcastle Upon Tyne. With her husband, Robb Jackson, Vanessa developed the Creative Writing Minor at TAMU-CC and is the founding editor of The Windward Review, which will see Vol. 18 this Fall.
Her new book in verse, Grief Road, is a love story that sweeps you into its arms from the first page, and you're flying between layers of captivating story from Halsdon Mill Cottage, North Devon and the magic of Christmas in the Chihuahuan Desert, Big Bend. Each poem a gift of gorgeously crafted musicality and sensory terrain—an interior world sharpened clearer through loss, and an outer terrain rendered vivid, incisive, and lush. Winging with kestrels, or walking along, the reader feels the heartache and the swoon with a friend and is invited to share in the close and dazzling appreciation for every living thing. These are poems that hold space with us, rooted in profound connection and an expansive recognition of what we all hold dear. We're so grateful to Vanessa for sharing this love story with her community and the literary world at large.
Mule Ears Peak (Big Bend)
Grateful for the sun’s warming in the stiffness of winter we sit on low stones between honey mesquite and creosote, resting after the difficult balance of a narrow trail clinkered with lava, made dangerous by the distraction of beauty.
Listening to the dense stillness of desert silence, we hear the clatter of a bird’s wings behind us as footsteps approaching. For a quickened moment, our hearts beat fast as if to warn us we’re not alone in our sanctuary after all--
as if something restless had shadowed us here, had come to stand at our shoulders, one hand raised to shade its eyes, to bid us gaze on the stone-spired ears that in the crafty light have become cathedral towers thronged with spirits surely
praising the golden slant of this one minute, choired in vision only. We blink and breathe. No bird is visible when we rise to leave. Silently we carry the fragile shell of vision home, watching with wakeful care our clumsy wingless feet on the shifting ground beneath us.
Yew Hill, Compton Down (Hampshire)
On a blue and bitter January morning my eyes streaming in the knifing wind and the wide landscape fractures into random shards of field and sky.
The sun tugs in vain at the taut strings of these short days, struggling to offer light brighter than straw. Except for the defiant green of ivy, every shade seems dull or dying.
I think, as I stand on this high hill where I’ve stood so often before, that we imprint our lives over and over as if to perfect a pattern that we never quite discern.
Below me, blackbirds toss and tumble through the uncontrollable air. Last time I was here it was summer and you were with me, butterflies spreading their wings in the warm grass.
I have been acquainted with the night, with grief. But I’m acquainted with sorrow only because I have known the grace of hills, the sunlit uplands, lapwings, larks ascending beyond the infinite ecstasy of blue. I have held the living warmth of my lover, my friend. I have embraced the precarious certainty of him, the premonition of loss—because there is nothing in this world so precious as the dangerous joy of absolute union. He wrote me poems. In one he said:
There’s a day coming when we won’t be together as we are, sure as winter rain,
when one of us goes beyond the pall to that place only love can breach
And he has gone. Yet I wouldn’t exchange this pain for the safe trudge of the lowlands. The larksong height of passion is perhaps only fully comprehended from the unforgiving depths of the dark river, where the boatman takes his toll, I’ve discovered, not from the dead but from the living. I pay not willingly but with mute thanks for the terrible beauty of life.
Vanessa Furse Jackson comes from a family with deep roots in Devonshire. However, married to Robb Jackson, an Ohio native, she lived in the United States for almost thirty years, the majority of them spent teaching literature and writing at Texas A&M University—Corpus Christi. She has numerous published works, including a book about her great-grandfather, The Poetry of Henry Newbolt: Patriotism Is Not Enough, two collections of short stories, What I Cannot Say to You and Small Displacements, a co-authored book of poems with her husband Robb, entitled Crane Creek, Two Voices, and two novels, The Revolving Year, and The Anthropologist’s Daughter.
Vanessa's work can be found here: https://www.vanessafursejackson.com/home Grief Road and other titles can be purchased on Amazon.co.uk https://www.forward2me.com/amazon-uk-forwarding/