An Introduction to Jessica Q. Stark by Vi Khi Nao

Even with a personal calculator, I could not mathematically or scientifically calculate or suture Jessica Q Stark’s sharp, elegant poems into one voice, a voice that will speak us through the “murky-watered babe” and into any unforeseen fire. These three poems, like three invisible, flickering alphabets, seem to arrive from a place of imminent birth. The importance of naming a child – is it like how poems are born? The same hunting for internet lists? The search for the great “well-lit verbs” – the ones with ten fingers and ten toes? Stark wastes no time in clamoring the foreseen footsteps of her poetic voice into a flawless realm of concrete, systematic abstraction. There are no missteps in her couplets. They arrive to us confidently and fully formed, much to our awe, like a child sliding out of the birth canal devoid of nine months of hard labor. Her exactness is well articulated and ventilated, always with “salt” and “melody” in her poems so you know, as readers (of course), they haven’t been “exhumed” or been in an “unmarked grave” or chemically born for your pleasure. There are bodies in her poems. Some are alive and well, and others – a fairytale from the ground and up. There is, of course, forensic science, clavicle and ants, music, dried grass, hope and ashtray, in them as well. They don’t behave like animals in her work. Nonetheless, Stark has a swaying way of gathering these “well-lit” nouns together – like gathering evidences from a birth-written crime scene – and compelling them to operate as one elegant mouthpiece for her highly intelligent state of awareness. She has a way with us, dividing us with her well-calculated syllables, surprising us by erasing us from time as we turn the soft corners of her stanzas. Yes, her couplets take us into unanticipated territories. We often do not know where they will take us, but in her cool and assertive hands, we arrive at the end of each of her poems fresh and renewed and awed. Her persuasive intelligence teaches us that language can leak, but it can also erect secure roofs over our tongues. Even if we open our mouths like a “plastic crate” – we are never doomed. I am so happy and delighted to introduce these three beauties to you.

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