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Josie Kearns

Josie Kearns

The poems of Josie Kearns have appeared in The Georgia Review, Iowa Review, Poetry Northwest Passages North, and have been widely anthologized elsewhere. Her first book, Life After the Line (nonfiction), was published by Wayne State University Press. She has been awarded grants from the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs, the Cowden Fellowship, three Hopwood Awards from the Jules and Avery Hopwood Foundation, and the first MacLeod-Grobe Prize from Poetry Northwest. She has been a soda jerk, reporter, factory worker, and grants writer, and currently teaches Creative Writing and Literature at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

Also by Josie Kearns

 

New Numbers

New NumbersNew Numbers

$12.00 paper | 57 Pages
ISBN-13: 978-0-932826-93-0
Publication Date: April 2000
Buy: Amazon.com

An Inland Sea Poetry Book

These poems step forth with their eyes closed, trust that some soil will support their weight. Josie Kearns begins where language leaves off – this is not whimsical reinventions but a strong case for extension that flowers from need. The poet finds both ease and struggle in the infinite; her lines push through their landscapes as if the air will both carry and resist them. This understanding of the nature of things makes Kearns' poetry so gently balanced, so willing to let life maneuver itself through the clutter. Her poems have a clairvoyant quality; she is one of the "messengers between worlds," the medium for what, until now, was nameless.

"Josie Kearns brings a fresh sensibility and intelligence to contemporary poetry. New Numbers offers delightful insights into nothing less than the nature of What Is. The quality of imagination here is truly singular; the poems have a beautiful oddity and that is the rarest quality in poetry today. Fictional numbers with names like 'leethum,' 'quaro,' 'sping,' and 'eenum' become metaphors for indeterminacy, the unknown, the last straw, apocalypse and excess. At once playful and wise, uncanny and tough-minded, these poems will expand your sense of the world's harmonics."
        —Alice Fulton

"Ms. Kearns delivers, in New Numbers, the precise and redemptive math of language. Against the disorderly figures of life as we know it, these poems tender a parallel universe–well reckoned, finely tuned, told truly–of incalculable gifts."
        —Thomas Lynch

Poem

New Numbers

"We need new numbers for this."
     Scientist explaining the term ‘overkill’
     to Congress.

Because we can’t keep count of the daily murders.
Because 12583 dead doesn’t mean anything.
Because every 5 minutes immeasurable harm happens.
Because of 1 in 10 and 4 out of 5.
Because 22% think the Holocaust didn’t happen.

Because we escape time through the doorway of digital
       exactness.
Because the National Park Service says 300,000 and the
       marchers say 1.2 million.
Because we tally the exact spasms of a man’s body
       in the electric chair and his name is 789632556.

Because humans are branded with them.
Because the likelihood of a teenager having an abortion is 1 in 5
       and the likelihood of telling her father is zero.
Because 5,832 nuclear installations must be wrong.
Because graves outnumber affordable housing 25,000 to 1.
Because the 21st century must be redefined.

Because it is possible for every voice
And every word of every voice
And every letter of every word of every voice
And every part of every letter of every word of every voice
       to pass into nothingness.