Jar of Pennies by Sean Karns
"Sean Karns will break your heart. The narrator of this collection makes starklyvivid the hardscrabble background of his life: an unhappy mother who worksat the slaughterhouse, a father whose farm fails, a boy who loves both butplays the piano to escape. A group of poems referencing the likes of WalkerEvans and James Agee enlarges the context considerably. There is a doomedaffair, a brilliant dream sequence about the father, and a field of"cornstalks...flutter[ing] their death rattle." Deeply sad, profoundly moving,and seductively musical, these poems are a testament to survival and art." - KELLY CHERRY, author of The Life and Death of Poetry: Poems
"Sean Karns' Jar ofPennies is a moving and harrowing book full of Levis and Levine. At times the poems are parable-like, as in the opening poem where a father and son casually slice apart a globe is if they own--let alone understand--the larger world it represents. Elsewhere, there's a subtle, stunning surrealness: "The ash of bone is fog."But, ultimately, this is a book of unflinching attention to the world of thesemi-rural Midwest, a landscape of paper mills, tenant farmers,slaughterhouses, "death-yellow" cornfields, and steel mills "with smoke stacks like skyscrapers." Karns' vision is so stark and apt--a scar on a shoulder shines "like a pink marble," two men skinning a buck "pull the buck's hide /like tugging on a bell rope in a tower"--it's impossible not to be drawn bythese poems to that place of awe where horror, beauty, and sorrow merge."
--Wayne Miller, author of TheCity, Our City
Karns knows how to take "comfortable" narratives and give them their power through accurate, intimate detail. The honesty with which Karns speaks from the depth of himself possesses all the hefty weight of a jar of pennies in a toddler's hands. -Los Angeles Review