cover image Light Me Down: The New & Collected Poems of Jean Valentine

Light Me Down: The New & Collected Poems of Jean Valentine

Jean Valentine. Alice James, $39.95 (512p) ISBN 978-1-949944-60-0

This resonant and comprehensive retrospective of Valentine (Shirt in Heaven), who died in 2020, celebrates the poet’s visceral, spiritual, and uncanny writing. There is solace to be found in Valentine’s language, which refuses the explicit, instead welcoming readers to take refuge in the indefinable aspects of experience. The mysterious poems carry an emotional poignancy, with grief embodied through spectral manifestations: “Five or six times you have come by/ the window; as if I’d been on a bus// sleeping through the Northwest, waking up,/ seeing old villages pass in your face.” With exactitude, she describes the unsettling weight of night, “the dark is/ smiling, wanting their smile, their faces for its own.” Vitality is redefined through a visceral, textured lexicon: “some sweet core,/ under, over gravity,/ some white shore... laugh sore tooth/ sucked warm, sweet; sweet wine// running cool through new/ dry shrewd turnings of my soul,/ opening veins... wings beating// like words against my eyes.” Later poems were crafted while Valentine was battling Alzheimer’s, making the collection a source of inspiration both for its author’s fortitude and her innate virtuosity. Valentine’s poems evoke the liminality and wonder overlooked in everyday life. (Apr.)