The three sequences of Groundwork comprise a sophisticated reworking of European myth on the order of Yeats’s The Tower. The first is situated by an archaeological dig in modern-day Tunisia, the second by the Garden of Eden, the third by the waters and islands of Homer’s Odyssey. Together they form a devastating critique of contemporary aesthetics.Few poets today are verseThe three sequences of Groundwork comprise a sophisticated reworking of European myth on the order of Yeats’s The Tower. The first is situated by an archaeological dig in modern-day Tunisia, the second by the Garden of Eden, the third by the waters and islands of Homer’s Odyssey. Together they form a devastating critique of contemporary aesthetics.Few poets today are versed in the archetypes that inform the European tradition, and even fewer can manipulate them with the grace of Amanda Jernigan. With rivers of exquisite prosody and a panoramic intellectual scope, her Groundwork has recharted the poetic landscape – and by doing so, has changed it forever.PRAISE FOR AMANDA JERNIGAN"Amanda Jernigan possesses daunting formal skill ... her lines have an emotional intensity that is no less memorable for being understated. And she has a light, perfecting touch." - David Orr, NPR.org“For years now, Amanda Jernigan’s name has been traded between poets like stories of mythical beast sightings; whispers of a poet who could arrive on the scene any day to shame us all with her preternatural craft, heart, and mind. With Groundwork, Jernigan arrives not as a wide-eyed first-timer, but as a wide-eyed master. You hold in your hands a collector’s item of the future. Mark my words: you’ll say, I was there when.” – George Murray"What a delight to read such superbly crafted poems which at the same time transcend their craft so decisively. They are light and song-like but they are also profound. She has the lovely singing line, though the poems bite too; that strengthens the melody." - Eric Ormsby...
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I imagine Amanda Jernigan wandering her world with a spade, that multifarious tool of violence and recovery, with a personal mission to not just penetrate but live within.So she takes her spade to archaeological digs and the Garden of Eden and the Mediterranean and Newfoundland and quiet New Brunswick and bustling Ontario -- all places of her mind as much as her body -- and she spades shovelfuls over her shoulder and roughens her hands with handle callouses and the dirt she brushes aside. Her arm muscles vibrate with the aftershocks of a blow she delivers with the blade of the spade to some unruly mythological figure. Her feet grow weary from the journey, so she lies in the grass beside her spade and dreams of the places she's invaded and explored and decides to give them to us so we can share. But first she crawls under the sod and cools herself amongst the worms and subterranean damp, and later she comes up clean and unsoiled by her journey, being with it and apart all at once.She made me feel that as I read her poems, some of the most beautiful I've read in quite some time, and when a poet makes me feel as deeply as she, I will give them all my attention forever. Write us more, Amanda Jernigan. Please write us more.
It may sound simplistic, but perhaps the most surprising feature of Amanda Jernigan's Groundwork is that some of the poems actually rhymed. After reading at least a poem a day for the past year and a half, it caught me off guard to actually to come across rhyming poems outside of Dr. Seuss. It was refreshing!The poems here are divided into three themes: an archeological dig, the Garden of Eden, and Homer's Odyssey. Of these, I liked the Eden poems the most. The following stanza from the poem "Off-Season" stood out in particular:Peopled, Eden was, it's true,A pleasant park in which to ramble;I myself once found it so.But empty it's a better symbol.Simple, yes, but I tend to like the simple poems the best.
I went to a reading by Amanda Jernigan 2 years ago and was blown away by her poetry, so I finally took the time to reread them and once again I was amazed. They're just really fantastic. Of course I may be biased because many of the poems in this book are based in and around Classical mythology (ok mostly the Iliad and Odyssey) but man. They are good.
Although Excavations and First Principles are both exploratory and reflective, the most inward revelations come from Journeywork and Jernigan's meditations on Homer's Odyssey.