3 poems by Jennifer Sperry Steinorth
1 essay by Jade Lascelles,
on the poems of Jennifer Sperry Steinorth
Prompt: Write an expository essay.
I read a quote once (I don’t much remember where) about how you are never alone because there are always stars in the night sky to keep you company (a paraphrase, of course; no citation needed). Just as there is always a moon—ripe and full and of otherworldly coloring—hung in the shimmering corners of memory. And while it is a poetic and nice enough concept, these celestial counterparts keeping you company, it is simply untrue. Because time and space extend into such unfathomable vastness that the only way to make sense of them is through pretend proximity. Through applying the shapes and sounds of what we know and can recall. Through retrospection. That’s what starlight is, after all. Retrospect. Lingering stain of a luminescence long dead, but still we pretend it is pulsing.
That’s what memory is, after all. When you fucked each other anyway, you did so without fear wriggling at the back of your throat. In memories, you are brave and unquestioning. We could swallow almost anything, and you did. Digested it. And what remains are leftover flecks fallen across a nighttime sky, still glowing, somehow.
Prompt: Write a persuasive essay.
There are certain times (years or seasons or even just a day here and there) that truly are dusted in lace. That move slow as a scrap of lace falling through the air. That drape soft and artful. The beauty of lace is in its tatting. Delicate openings between the thinnest twining of thread. Openings that give the illusion of solidity, and so we press into them. Let the netting hold us safe in its reinforced vacuity. There is nothing to be ashamed of. We are allowed to be young and frivolous. We can pretend in our Halloween best so convincingly that the bite marks on our necks are real come morning time. We can become taut and charged as matchsticks, dance close with the danger of ignition when certain songs come on. We can smoke without concern, ash on the carpet without care, because repercussions are for other, unlaced times. Not here, not now.
Prompt: Write a narrative essay.
This is a story reenacted over and over. This is a story of slippage. With the same slickness as a fish through wet and hungry hands or a stitch of soft yarn off a metal knitting needle. This is a story of how two people slip into each other, even if unplanned. (But really, it is often not unplanned, just unspoken of.) The hazy intersection between when people want each other and when people simply want an other. This is a story of how, if the tension builds enough, people cannot help but tear at each other. Pull open each other in hopes of finding a plumb line to their most unnamable cravings. This is a story quick as the panting breath of two people dismissing any civilized concerns and allowing themselves to be animal together. Who fuck, frightened and rabid, on a couch one night. Who say, Come in. Say, yes. This is the story of the threads that unspool from the cushions that held their writhing bodies. Coins fallen from undone pockets to rest between the pillows.
Prompt: Write a compare-and-contrast essay.
What to say in the face of our own pasts? Just this: Love and attraction, memory and nostalgia, feel eerily similar as our hearts pump them through hollowed veins. They are dynamic in their similarity. They are dynamic in their distinction. In the way starlight is still magical as it interrupts a darkened sky. In the way these poems are another’s memories spoken back to our own.