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An Ode to Suffering and the Human Experience
Suffering is a shared burden throughout the world, but it’s a rarity when a poet can capture every angle of persevering through everyday tortures. Jen Karetnick’s American Sentencing is a riveting and “intense examination of the physical body and the various indignities and ailments from which [the body] can suffer.”
The strongest aspect of this collection (or at least my favorite) is how Karetnick journeys through constructing the physical burdens of mental illness with everyday activities. In “Bobble-Headed,” a dash of tasteful dark humor (not South Park level dark humor, but just as clever) enters the typical restaurant setting with a familiar hesitant request about a wrong order with, “Oh, waitress! I ordered / nuts but I got crazy.” The playful tone turns into the passive way one quietly begs for help and copes with problems, requesting, “Can I speak to the manager of this eatery? You see, / I’m allergic to my amygdala, /a pure reptilian / reaction I’m sure, a / swizzle-stick brain / response no one would pick. / Still, I’d like my money back.” Like “Bobble-Headed” and many others in the collection, Karetnick brushes aside the image of the always happy working mom or perfect family with reality and the notion of “getting through the day.”
Indeed, the collection is an eerily accurate portrayal of how our culture encourages us to push through our tortured thoughts and strains. That we, like the cover of the collection alluding to the Garden of Eden, are sentenced to life on Earth with inescapable pain. But just because it is called American Sentencing does not mean it cannot be enjoyed by anyone else who is human.
You can purchase American Sentencing from Winter Goose Publishing now.
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