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American Sentencing Paperback – May 23, 2016
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It's safe to say that I've never encountered a collection such as this! Well done, Jen! I feel you've broken through well-trod poetic pathways into something very human and original. That is certainly to be commended.
Well, no. And this is what Karetnick explores. Depression. Migraine headaches. Night sweats. Post-partum depression. Chronic fatigue. These are problems that often defy a cure and also ones often associated with our fast-paced, workaholic American culture (and thus the “American” of the title).
We and our doctors go looking for causes of our ailments and find dead ends and “negative results.” A cure usually follows diagnosis, and without a diagnosis, we are left with – what, exactly? Here’s the title poem:
Between you and me, there is no
doubt in your mind, I have been here before
and will be again for “pseudo-
gout,” “reversible lupus,” diseases ephemeral as
the skeptical blink. Unimpressive, you say. It is no
difference to you. Once again, a test outcome
is negative, as if I am less than the sum of zero,
a body that registers nothing, not even the pretzel
knot of all its parts. Look down my throat. Peer
in my ears. Allow your instruments to dictate
the truth as you have learned it—
joint connecting symptoms to diagnosis,
not the tissue of intuition, not
the fatty imagination, not the instinct of the
gut that is flexible and in no way demonstrable.
“American Sentencing” is both arresting and relieving – our own physical and mental illnesses and experiences are not abnormal; someone else knows what we struggle with.
But don't imagine this is dry as a medical journal - everyone will connect with this collection, will see themselves or friends and family offered here for understanding. Science and humor and compassion (not to mention beautiful writing) may not seem to be obvious collaborators, but as the author demonstrates here, they are are sometimes the best and only choice.
Read this for the artful language, read it for the medical accuracy, read it for the wit, read it to find someone who understands your own experience - but do read it. You won't be the same.