Fisher, Jessica 1976-
Fisher, Jessica 1976-
Born 1976. Education: Attended graduate school at University of California at Berkeley.
Home—Oakland, CA. Office—University California Berkeley, 322 Wheeler Hall, Berkeley, CA 94720.
Poet and writer.
Yale Younger Poets Prize, 2006, for Frail-Craft.
(Editor, with Robert Hass) The Addison Street Anthology: Berkeley's Poetry Walk, Heyday Books (Berkeley, CA), 2004.
Contributor of poetry to periodicals, including the New Yorker, Threepenny Review, and TriQuarterly.
Jessica Fisher's first book of poetry, Frail-Craft, was called an "intelligent, often playful collection" by Ligaya Mishan in a review in the New Yorker. Frail-Craft is the winner of the 2006 Yale Younger Poets prize, which is the oldest annual literary award in the United States. Chosen by a renowned poet, in this case Louise Glück, the winning poetry collection is published by Yale University Press. Those collections eligible for the prize must be written by an American citizen who is under forty years of age and who has not previously had a collection of poetry published.
The collection of poems by Fisher features ruminations on the problems and possibilities of perception for the dreamer and lover. She writes of lost love, family life, abuse, and other themes, often combining them in one poem. For instance, in "Three Dreams," she writes: "The bald eagle circled there, a papa eagle, inept at nest-making, but the eggs / had lost their nest, and there was nothing else for him to do than try to build / a new one around them. They were so hard to contain, his would-be chicks, / their shells were cracked open, no nest could house them, and still he circled / with straws in his beak to make a bed for his would-have-been chicks. And I / knew my brother was in danger."
"It took a few poems for me to relax into the style and tenor of Fisher's ‘narrative’ lead," wrote a contributor to the Poet with a Day Job Web site. "I put narrative in quotes there because these poems are not narrative in the poetry-term sense of the word. They're not language or experimental for that matter, either. But there is a voice in the work as a whole that positively embodies the quality of storyteller."
The author includes poems of varying lengths, including longer works such as "Novella," which is a mythical-type poem that runs for six pages. "It is a remarkable poem and shows off Fisher's best talent: The ability to sustain and maintain clarity, attenuation and control throughout," noted a contributor to the Tryst 3.com—Poetry Journal. The author also includes experimental poems that the Tryst 3.com contributor wrote "gives the reader a sense of freedom to explore different ways to read a poem and not be dictated by where s/he thinks a caesura should have been inserted." An example of this type of poetry is the poem "The Hunger for Form": "Sidewinder's trail in the windswept desert, that's how I saw / the snaking hairs leading down—/ I'd not yet been there, I did not know how makeshift the rim. / If you sit in the front row / then you are on stage/ if you see blood on the glass / then you have chosen blood / and because matter hungers form, from form into form it passed—/ Dragon of Love, love's devourer / hunger has an end: / here it is / the winding path / come full stop…."
Writing on the Cold Front Web site, Jackie Clark wrote that Fisher's poems "have a certain delicateness to them." E.M. Kaufman, writing in the Library Journal, commented that the author's "debut melds dreamscape and West Coast landscape, truth and fiction, hurt and humor, with a composed yet passionate language that seems all her own." Although several reviewers also noted that author's humorous and playful side, most commented on aspects of her poetry such as the author's "unflinchingly intense voice," as noted by a Publishers Weekly contributor, who also wrote that the author "brings to her poems a satisfying and often very powerful seriousness of purpose."
Fisher is also the editor, with Robert Hass, a former U.S. poet laureate, of The Addison Street Anthology: Berkeley's Poetry Walk. The volume features poetry panels selected by Hass, depicted by artist David Goines, and installed in the sidewalks of Berkeley's downtown arts and theatre district. Called the Berkeley Poetry Walk, the sidewalk poetry and art provide history, poetry, and anecdotes concerning the arts in Berkeley. "Each poem along the Poetry Walk has a connection—some more intuitive than others—to the city, honoring its great literary tradition and the great poets whose lives or writing have intersected with it," wrote a contributor to Poet.org. The poets included on the walkway and in the book range from poets throughout the centuries, from William Shakespeare, Sappho, and the Ohlone Indians who lived where Berkeley is now situated, to more modern poets such as Allen Ginsberg, Thorton Wilder, and Gertrude Stein. Cathy Cockrell, writing on the Berkeleyan Web site, noted that the volume "enriches that process of discovery." Cockrell went on to write in the same article that the editors "complement each poem, translation, or song lyric included on the walk with notes that provide its biographical, literary, and historical background."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Fisher, Jessica, Frail-Craft, foreword by Louise Glück, Yale University Press (New Haven, CT), 2007.
Library Journal, May 15, 2007, E.M. Kaufman, review of Frail-Craft, p. 94; June 1, 2007, E.M. Kaufman, review of Frail-Craft, p. 121.
New Yorker, April 9, 2007, Ligaya Mishan, review of Frail-Craft, p. 85.
Publishers Weekly, March 19, 2007, review of Frail-Craft, p. 42.
Berkeleyan,http://www.berkeley.edu/news/berkeleyan/ (January 12, 2005), Cathy Cockrell, "Concrete Imagery."
Cold Front,http://reviews.coldfrontmag.com/ (March 5, 2008), Jackie Clark, review of Frai-Craft.
Litquake,http://www.litquake.org/ (March 5, 2008), brief profile of author.
Poet with a Day Job,http://poetwithadayjob.wordpress.com/ (August 10, 2007), review of Frail-Craft.
Poets.org,http://www.poets.org/ (March 5, 2008), "Poetry Landmark: The Poetry Walk in Berkeley, CA."
Tryst 3.com—Poetry Journal,http://www.tryst3.com/ (March 5, 2008), review of Frail-Craft.
Yale University Press,http://yalepress.yale.edu/ (March 5, 2008), brief profile of author.