Regarding How to Talk about the Dead
Jeff Newberry’s one of our great poets of place--threading memory through local salt and sod to arrive at the universal. And his poems are prayers--quiet and resonant. Not so much tablets of wax as bees. Each poem one tiny traveler bringing home browsed and gleaned and bumped against flowers and lees. Inside Newberry’s deft sensory weaves, the honey isn’t in the lion’s head: no, it’s in our ears, on our eyes, and painted thick across our mouths. And always the bittersweet and the sweet intertwine. I finished this shining book and sat very still for a long time. Such is the rooted soaring you are in for. In How to Talk about the Dead, each walking stick is a dowsing rod.
—Abraham Smith, author of Insomniac Sentinel & Dear Weirdo
There is a progress situated fully in this new collection by Jeff Newberry beginning in the hard, green, at times bitter, realizations grown from childhood innocence and reprisals of the nuclear family set in home ground and waters of his native Gulf Coastal Florida and South Georgia.Questions of being continually surface in a determined self-examining poesis cast throughout this volume, where a natural ripening and softening occurs in the author’s transcendence from fathered to father, fledgling to provider as he, with skilled hands and full-grown voice, traverses the soul’s terrain. Herein you’ll find some of the most miraculous tenderness ever committed to verse in a mortal suite devoted to his beloved just-born daughter, thread certain needles of realization beyond, and like whole life arrive at the gates of certain heaven wondering, as must we all, whether to go in.
—Sean Sexton, author of Portals and May Darkness Restore.
Jeff Newberry’s poems dwell on the borders between this world and one we sense but cannot see. But Newberry’s poems let us know that the world we are barely aware of is as complicated and ultimately capricious as this one. “I’m faithful,” Newberry claims in “The Bottom Fisher’s Prayer,” though he knows the existence he, and all of us, praise contains the “mayflies and gnat haze” he acknowledges just before this proclamation. Newberry also understands that in our dark times we need singers. “The Quarantine Haiku,” a sequence written in early 2020, recalls the anxiety of those first months and we found our collective gaze turned inward and even sunlight was a portent. I could praise each poem in this collection, but the fact is that How to Talk About the Dead is the work of a poet in full possession of his powers. In language that is both spare and hunting, Newberry creates a world I want to spend more time in. Celebrate the strength of these poems and the man who wrote them.
—Al Maginnes, Author of Fellow Survivors: New and Selected Poems
About the Author
Jeff Newberry is an essayist, novelist, and poet. His writing has been published in a wide variety of print and online journals, including Apalachee Review, Brevity: Concise Nonfiction, The MacGuffin, Memorious, North American Review, Southeast Review, South Florida Poetry Review, Sweet, and others. His chapbook, A Visible Sign, was a nominee for the Conference on Christianity and Literature’s Book of the Year. His other publications include a collection of poetry (Brackish), a collaborative manuscript with the poet Justin Evans (Cross Country), and a novel (A Stairway to the Sea). He teaches in the Writing and Communication Program at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College in Tifton, Georgia.
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