cover image World of Made and Unmade

World of Made and Unmade

Jane Mead. Alice James (Consortium, dist.), $16.95 trade paper (100) ISBN 978-1-938584-32-9

Changing gears in her elegiac fifth collection, Mead (Money Money Money | Water Water Water) explores parental mortality against the backdrop of a New Mexico landscape that is tied to the author’s heritage and under threat socially and ecologically. Mead grapples with a complicated mother-daughter relationship in unswerving terms, refusing to shirk responsibilities to the surrounding world, in particular the local grape harvest and the issues of migrant workers along the U.S.-Mexico border. Her shifts and movements often occur in conjunction with agricultural cycles: “Rain, and the grape-sugars/ are dropping.// The phone has gone out.” Said shifts and cycles, in turn, are frequently fashioned from actual representations of harvests, floods, and other natural forces frequently evoked by other poets on a symbolic level. As a result, Mead’s earthiness sometimes morphs into otherworldliness. Despite the protracted, harrowing process, Mead rejects self-pity: “The day after my mother died/ we finished the grape harvest.” Incorporated archival documents such as ledgers, photos, and drawings lend a stark palpability to the work. This resolute examination of death holds surprising room for an “emergency sense of humor.” In addressing the relationship of mortality to ideas of resolution, celebration, and homecoming, Mead asks, “How will you spend your courage?” Photos & illus. (Sept.)