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Poetry

Jessica Barksdale

Sheila-Na-Gig Editions Volume 8

Grim Honey

by Jessica Barksdale

Winner of the 2020 Sheila-Na-Gig Editions Poetry Manuscript Contest

$16.00

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Jessica Barksdale: An author of fifteen novels, Pushcart Prize and Best-of-the-Net nominee, Jessica Barksdale’s short stories, poems, and essays have appeared in or are forthcoming in the Waccamaw Journal, Salt Hill Journal, Tahoma Review, and So to Speak. Her work has been recognized and honored by The Sewanee Review, The Wigleaf, The North American Review, and The Ocotillo Review. She is a Professor of English at Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill, CA and teaches novel writing online for UCLA Extension and in the online MFA program for Southern New Hampshire University. Born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, she now lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband.

About the Book: The hardest sweet is sharp to the tongue, painful, cutting, and often divine. The poems in Jessica Barksdale’s collection Grim Honey follow thin paths of grief, up through steep switchbacks and down the rocky declines into the meadows, where for a moment, we can pause and remember before moving on. The speakers in these poems open to their sorrows and passions and then push forward into stories that—while understood—are still evolving. Barksdale moves through issues of family, love, and death, delving into what is beautiful as completely as what is not to show the fullness of life

Advance Praise: Grim Honey explores the messiness of the human body and a constellation of losses. Barksdale writes with great verve and energy about every subject from family to travel to death. There’s an urgency to these poems, a persistence in all things, whether it’s the writing itself or the cataloguing of the world’s beauties and tragedies. She knows how to turn a curse into a benediction, an old kitchen into the site of new memories, each pain into the story of a deeply lived life.  
— Traci Brimhall, author of Come the Slumberless to the Land of Nod and Rookery



In the staggering “Hand-Painted”, Jessica Barksdale tells us “[h]e would start one project /and move to the next, / never imagining / he’d die before / completing any.” Everything exists as it is, until alchemy happens—a potent and blunt mythic or natural world is invoked. In “Three Sisters”, we watch a personal mythology unfold, “the Easter queens, daughters / to our father, rain in the distance. // Time dripped itself loose, and we were still three / but now at war.” In this quietly direct way, new truths are imparted. The generosity of these lessons on decisiveness and focus through the shifting of grief—the many dimensions of the depths of knowing and loving—are meted with great care. This model of growth offers the reader wisdom for how to open and move with a consistently transforming world. 
— Kari Flickinger, author of The Gull and the Bell Tower

Good poems anchor us with vivid detail and provocative language. In Jessica Barksdale’s collection, Grim Honey, these poems prove no exception. In the title poem, we see a dead sister as both memory and comet, hurtling toward us unbidden, “a sweet, ambered fossil / slicing my tongue / with each sharp lick.” Death and loss continue their journey through Barksdale’s poems, as in “This is It,” which remind us lest we forget, “we are here / and then we are not.” Yet Barksdale finds the sweetness in every moment, in friendships, in parenting, in life: “Stacked one on top the other / the little things become / the big things / become your tagline / your nom de plume, your / mantra, your slogan / your signature dish.” Grim Honey is about what awaits when we examine our lives and remember that they are, inextricably, always our own.  
— Darien Hsu Gee, author of Other Small Histories

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