From Joan of Arc to Man Ray and Jenny Holzer, Jennifer MacBain Stephens' luminous poems work through the art and warfare of skin and sacrifice, film and fantasy. Urgent and surreal, political and personal, The Messenger is Already Dead is an essential contemporary collection from an acclaimed poet.
"Jennifer MacBain-Stephens' poems in The Messenger is Already Dead hang heavy with history, weaving past and present into a single entity that drips with atmospheric pain felt on a female wavelength. Joan of Arc factors heavily, as our existence is based in part on her struggle and sacrifice. "She blends into the walls," the author tells us, "she pelts an asterisk/ at the English dictionary." Here, birthmarks on babies signal stains of the past bleeding into the present. MacBain-Stephens' collection is an exquisite puzzle formed from time's continuum, and our resistance to it; a unique perspective on the imperative to listen to the echoes of yesterday." --Amy Strauss Friedman, author of Gathered Bones are Known to Wander
"Jennifer MacBain-Stephens is a master at crafting a storyline through verse. She weaves together pop culture, modernity, and iconic historical figures to comment on gender identity, violence, and the search for the self. I love the conversational language smartly enmeshed in beautiful, strange images. MacBain-Stephens is a writer to follow for the years to come." --Joanna C. Valente, author of Marys of the Sea
"Here is an exhilarating mirror maze where history & eternity run three-legged races in search of the frontiers between life & after-life. Like Saint Joan herself, Jennifer's work speaks with divinity, and charges with righteously militant thunder. This is sacred & invigorating poetry for an age under siege by chaotic illusion and confounding surreality." --Joseph O'Brien, editor of Flapperhouse
"A straightforward urgency accompanies the timely profundity and deft perceptiveness of the poems in The Messenger Is Already Dead, anchored in experiences of violence against the female body...Other poems interrogate the films of Man Ray--whose work inspired the Black Dahlia's killer--and examine the mixed-media work of visual artist Jenny Holzer...Immersing oneself in this book, even the most tenacious reader will be confronted with the possibility of losing her grip on the narrative threads we spin--for whom?--about what and who keeps us safe in these bodies, in this world." --Fox Frazier-Foley, author of The Hydromantic Histories