In her new chapbook Sleepwalking Home, Jennifer Poteet writes “Meet the Family” and then introduces us to everyone from the incontinent dog to the grandmother who says “You’ve had enough chardonnay” and pours another glass for herself. Poem by poem, we visit a celebration where a “family new to money, does everything overdone,” a Medusa lighting her cigarettes at the stove and a 50-year old balding man off to buy a lap dance. Poteet’s deft narratives, like her trucker in “Gas, Food, Longing,” take us down the “main artery hyphenated white…through all states” with stops for a pretty girl who inexplicably hands out poems as she gets off the downtown #9 bus, a woman who “counts calories like aspirin,” and a Miss Yung (who wants the manicurist to call her Sally.) The language of Poteet’s travelogue is surprising and exact, and her tone is often both generous and amused. Poteet knows how easily we blink and “miss the mist that hovers on leaves before the sun rises.” So, pour yourself a glass of wine to sip as you read. You’ll find this chapbook hearty and heartfelt with notes of nostalgia and humor, and a great finish.
– Lois Marie Harrod
“Only the bravest poets would, in their debut collection., dare to write something like this: “Please excuse our incontinent dog. /Let me introduce you to my manic brother…/On Sundays, aunts and uncles come to the house/ on different prescriptions. /We argue about abortion/ over veal scaloppini.” But Jennifer Poteet is not an ordinary poet and Sleepwalking Home is not an ordinary debut. With gritty intelligence and tough wit, these poems deftly illuminate longing and loss— the loss of youth, of love, of marriage – these poems ‘polish the sun with brutal hands.’”
– Lauren Marie Schmidt
Sleepwalking Home gives voice to the “quiet desperation” Thoreau articulated. Tired of lap dances and awful jobs, its narrators long to part of a more affluent world that despises them. But this is not a book to make you want to slit your wrists. Its playfulness, wit and humor redeems and illumines the darkness. “When our blue Pontiac left Poteet,” Poteet writes in “Sexy,Texas,” “the road stretched ahead, an unread book.” That won’t be the case for this book, which I suspect you will want to read over and over.
– Peter E. Murphy