Jane Mead is the author of four previous collections of poetry, most recently Money Money Money | Water Water Water (2014). Her poems appear regularly in journals and anthologies, and she is the recipient of a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, a Whiting Writers Award, and a Lannan Foundation Completion Grant. She teaches at the low residency MFA program at Drew University and Farms in northern California.
With sorrow, we’ve learned of Jane Mead’s passing on September 8, 2019. Jane’s moving long poem World of Made and Unmade graced the 2017 Griffin Poetry Prize shortlist. From it, we can all glean that the process of death includes much to revere and to embrace. “Her language serves loss as a bell serves its chime,” the Griffin Poetry Prize judges exulted. In this loss to the poetry world, Jane has left us much to treasure and celebrate.
Jane’s publisher Alice James Books offers this lovely tribute.
“Jane Mead’s poem, World of Made and Unmade, moves with elegance between elegy and harvest, between the work of practical care to the unmooring that loss precipitates. The poem allows for the intrusions of dogs and the laundry room flooding, acknowledging how the force of our days persists in the company of the dying. And how those disruptions are sometimes what can help carry us, sustain us through the experience, realign our spirit, or afford us reprieve. And in the midst of this is the poet’s mother, the life she has lived persuasive and just as vital. Mead moves from the days’ demands, engaged and articulate, to depict the service, the duty, and the company the dying require. Occasionally, the poem is still, reflective, posited at the bottom edge of the page, engaging in the ongoing conversation and the reckoning. Her language serves loss as a bell serves its chime. In her life, Mead’s mother planted and cared for 2001 pecan trees; her legacy, an orchard. In World of Made and Unmade, her life asks her daughter’s ‘How will you spend your courage?’ This poem seems that brave response.”
Mead’s fifth collection candidly and openly explores the long process that is death. These resonant poems discover what it means to live, die, and come home again. We’re drawn in by sorrow and grief but also by the joys of celebrating a long life and by how simple it is to find laughter and light in the quietest and darkest of moments.
Note: Summaries are taken from promotional materials supplied by the publisher, unless otherwise noted.
Jeramy Dodds reads from World of Made and Unmade by Jane Mead
The third time my mother fell
she stopped saying she wanted to die.
Saying you want to die
is one thing, she pointed out,
but dying is quite another.
And then she went to bed.
Outside her window the trees
of her orchard are heavy
with their load of ripening pecans.
The shadow of the Organ Mountains
creeps across the land,
and the blue heron stands on the shore
of the shrunken Rio Grande.
Wichita, Chickasaw, Wichita, Shoshoni:
her every tree, her every row.
I bring her coffee and a bun,
and a linen napkin, but –
Jesus Hapliod Christ,
as her grandfather the geneticist
would say, I mean how many
linen napkins does one person need?
How many linen napkins
the size of small tablecloths
does one person need – LVS
embroidered on each corner, and who
was L V S anyway?
Well, let’s see, my mother begins, LVS,
Lilian Vaughan Sampson, would have been
your great-grandmother, the name
going back to an orphan, a boy
who took his sister’s married name,
becoming Sampson in the ship’s log …
and in this way we lost track
of that side of the family.
In the hills above Rincon
a woman is leaving jugs of fresh water
outside the Rincon Water Works
before locking the metal doors.
Rincon, where the Rio Grande
turns back on itself –
like the crook of an arm
before heading south to become
Rio Bravo del Norte. Rincon, a stop
for water on the journey north.
The United States of America
Does not extend refugee status
And when there was nothing left
for her to do but die,
I brought my mother home with me.
I put her in the stone cabin
by the vineyard, cabin of her X
and now dead husband, my father,
cabin he called The Fortress
in those years his mother
came to live there. Came to die.
With the mediocre portraits
of her three children
hung at the foot of her bed,
I tried to joke that she now
was trapped into looking
at our heads. And, trapped thusly,
she did what nobody
could have predicted:
she developed a sense of humor.
An emergency sense of humor.
That dark room in which
we finally spoke.
From World of Made and Unmade by Jane Mead
Copyright © 2016 by Jane Mead
More about Jane Mead
The following are links to other Web sites with information about poet Jane Mead. (Note: All links to external Web sites open in a new browser window.)
- Jane Mead (official web site)
- Jane Mead profile (Poetry Foundation)
- An Interview with Jane Mead (Bookslut)
Have you read The World Made and Unmade by Jane Mead? Add your comments to this page and let us know what you think.