The Gift That Arrives Broken
Jacqueline Berger


Winner of the 2009
Autumn House Poetry Prize,
selected by Alicia Ostriker
ISBN 978-1-932870-36-7

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Reading The Gift That Arrives Broken, I kept asking myself: what is the magic that makes these poems of a quiet, ordinary life, with small sensuous pleasures, and the tracking of a father’s gradual decline toward death, so compelling? Is it the understated wisdom, the graceful compassion toward the self and others, the awareness that one is always “swallowing rage,” balanced by the decision with a friend to “share dessert, but share two of them/ because we love both chocolate and plums?” Is it the precision of description, is it the amused memories of the self at sixteen, dropping acid and tearing up money, or the amused speculation about a girl with a baby at a crafts fair selling goddess magnets, “so female the air around her/ is perfumed,” and the baby’s dad, “loose as a hinged board, slow as oil…Now I want to marry both of them”? “I am trying to get to the center,” Jacqueline Berger writes, “though there is no center,/ or everywhere is.” This is an art that is centered everywhere. It brought me closer to my own center, and it will bring you, whoever you are, closer too.

–Alicia Ostriker