2020 New Mexico-Arizona Book Award in Poetry Winner
“Jami Macarty’s poems draw us into the vagaries of human love, just as they implicate us in the ‘menagerie of the surviving world.’ These marvellously immersive poems of the Sonoran Desert and of our human deserts of the heart insist on each step taken, each present moment’s opening perception. Macarty’s lines nudge us toward non-dual Buddhist emptiness in each gap, each leap beyond wording. A must-read.”
“In these quiet, careful, though searing and poignant poems, Jami Macarty turns her considerable powers toward the dissolution of a romantic relationship in a desert landscape that is at once sustaining and doomed. Here, a body is at one with earthly extinction and failed romance: ‘I am your time to go now.’ These poems are as full of heart as they are of a keen intellect. Exquisitely honed and crafted, The Minuses provides testament to poetry’s ability to speak the unspeakable, to not only survive but to carry on: ‘she’s off-trail but knows her direction.’ This is a beautiful book of courage and the power to live fully, and on this planet, through heartbreak and hard-won joy.”
“The poems in Jami Macarty’s devotional collection swing upon a hinge that is the recurring site of the poet’s perception in time, where what is seen shows the inherent connection of each thing to its other: ‘honey given / honey taken.’ The Minuses’ brilliance lives in what the poet is able to give up for the possibility of finding a wholeness that is ongoing: ‘I come and go / from myself as I am / I will not return.’ A seer is, after all, one who sees. Jami Macarty is one who sees.”
The Minuses invites us into borderlands battlegrounds between the myriad forms of domination and resistance. Desert, coasts, and interpersonal boundaries provide both context and figure. Destructive nor’easters pummel shorelines. The desert “waxes, waxes,” continuing to exert itself. The population of raptor and carrion birds increases, as human beings abuse one another and themselves under the aegis of patriarchy.
Conjuring the literature of the desert, such as If There Were Anywhere But Desert by Edmond Jabès, Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey, and Land of Little Rain by Mary Austin, Jami Macarty’s collection beckons attention to ecological and feminist issues and the co-incidence of eating disorders, sexual harassment, family and intimate-partner violence, homelessness, suicide, environmental destruction, species endangerments, and other forms of disrespect and distress. Split and multi-perspective survivors claim voice as contemplators of natural splendors, and as seekers of incarnate desires. These voices amplify the precariousness that predicates women’s lives and the natural world, laying bare the struggle and faith required to endure with integrity and spirit intact.
An aesthetic of eco-feminism defines The Minuses. The poems edge contained space, seeking pathways out of confinement created by relationship, danger, belief, and self. Each poem invites reflective emersion in the objects they contemplate. Through use of catalogue and the elliptical, Macarty activates “what’s left open,” catalyzing meditation upon the gaps, the missing, the elusive tension between background and foreground. These poems court reader engagement with the liminal, where the lyric meets language, narrative meets fragment, and certainty meets ambiguity. Welcome to the borderlands between definition and abstraction, between nature and innovation, between our aspiring selves and the weighty mandates of the patriarchy.