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TJ Jarrett

TJ Jarrett

TJ Jarrett was born in Nashville, Tennessee to a pastor and a professor. She attended Wellesley College and Bennington Writing Seminars. She has published poems in Boston Review, Callaloo, Ninth Letter, Rattle and other publications. After years of wandering, she finds herself back where she started, in Nashville, where she works as a software developer.


Ain't No Grave

Ain't No GraveAin't No Grave

$15.00 paper | 91 pages
ISBN: 978-1-936970-18-6
Publication Date: September 2013
Buy: Amazon | B&N | IndieBound | ShopWMU | UPNE

Here is a voice of complete authority:  I think of Willa Cather in all her fullness of range and depth, her grief, sureness of step, and ease with life's own half-familiar withholdings.  TJ Jarrett pierces the listener with her new—seemingly accustomed, but new unsettlings; I was more lonely before I heard this voice.

            —Jean Valentine

These poems go incredibly deep. They stun us with the richness and pain of love and Darkness. Ain’t No Grave confronts America’s horrific legacy of racism in a voice that addresses the eternal, a fierce voice, yet not without tenderness. Some of the most moving poems I’ve read about family also live between these covers. The poems’ seriousness does not diminish their wit, or their sensuality. A holy inner strength and tireless questioning guide these poems, and a(n)… insistent beauty that makes them kin to prayer.

            —Amy Gerstler

From somewhere between Phillis Wheatley's sly use of iambs and Jupiter Hammon's collisions with the supernatural, comes TJ Jarrett's commitment to narrative lyrics that question the dead and death itself.  But these poems are much more staunchly Southern in their drawl and drawing out, or as Jarrett herself might say, they make for a "steady/reach into the body, emerging with its fruit/tight and tender as peaches..." This is a stunning debut from a poet who has already begun to re-read and rewrite the Bible itself.

            —Jericho Brown



How to Speak to the Dead

This is how it works: They talk. You listen.
Let them go on at length about the harp lessons
and the cataloging of their regrets. Then, let them
begin their questions; most often they ask about the
minutia of the earth. They will ask you to detail
the habits of grass and trees. They will ask you to
tell them about the current cycle of cicadas:
the red eyes, the husks, the sacrament that is sleep.
Tell them of your latest visit to the psychiatrist.
Tell them how he diagnosed what you experience
to be a form of complicated grief. Over their brittle
laughter, protest: No, listen. I paid for that. Tell them
your husband left last winter. Expect their shrugs.

Allow them to continue: Can you tell us again
what it feels to be cold? Can you remind us
of the colors the leaves make in autumn?
How does it feel to want?
Tell them about that dream
about the invasion. No, the one about the fire.
How there was a fire in the shape of men
marching the streets, how the bystanders threw themselves
headlong into the pageant, their burning hands destroying
all they touched until there was nothing left in the world
but you and ash. Ask them if death is like that.

They’ll say: nothing gone stays gone here; you are never
alone in death. Listen,
they’ll say, that’s the worst part of all.