Fill in the Blanks with Jennifer K. Sweeney


I knew of Jennifer K. Sweeney’s work from her book Salt Memory before I had the pleasure of making her acquaintance online. One of my favorite poems of hers that is available online, “Ballad for the Daily Condition” ends:

That we wake all of us in beds in rooms in houses
to reconstruct the familiar.
The train surfaces to light and everyone sways like kelp.
To cross over is no small thing
but still we do it daily, wordless, with eyes half-shut.

Lovely. Find out more about her as she fills in the blanks.


If I ran away to join the circus, my role would be elephant whisperer, floating mime, dark star cannon-shot.

In grade school, I was the ___kid, but I wanted to be the ___kid.

Oh, that’s a heartbreaker of course. The easy and predictable (and true) answer is: I was the awkward-insecure-uncoordinated-weak-unbeautiful kid, but wanted to be the assured-confident-athletic-strong-beautiful kid. It worked out good enough.

If they named a paint swatch color after my writing, it would be called:

(picture rectangular card with shades gradually lightening)

blue cadence



zinc-capped nudge 

no such sailboat

The vegetable that best describes my personality is: I want to say purple asparagus because that stuff is like the ramps to me, but really, I am more of a golden beet–rooted, reliable, earthy; come find me in autumn.

If you give me a houseplant, I will write a poem. I will rip the poem into pieces and drop them in a pitcher of water and listen to Joan Baez and make a casserole and swear when I forget about the casserole and burn it. Burning it will remind me about the water pitcher sitting in the window, late day sunlight filtering through the torn paper, and I will think how this is a much better use of the poem, how a poem should always be submerged and shot with light even if not literally doing so. I will eat the casserole anyway and it will take me three days to wash out the crusty pan. I will not shower or sleep much or do laundry or pay overdue bills because sometimes all the minutiae hunker under a tidal wave called Tuesday and then I will  look in the mirror and realize I am submerged and shot with light which will remind me of the water, the poem now a dull pulp, and I will pour it over the houseplant which I believe you gave me yesterday, and I will write you a note to tell you how much I love it, how I am taking such kind care of every single thing.

If I could listen to only one song from my teenage years for a whole month, it would be “Into the Mystic,” Van Morrison. No question.


Jennifer is the author of three poetry books: Little Spells (New Issues Press, 2015), How to Live on Bread and Music (Perugia Press, 2009) which won the James Laughlin Award from the Academy of American Poets, the Perugia Press Prize and was a finalist for the Poets’ Prize, and Salt Memory (Main Street Rag, 2006).

Visit Jennifer’s website:

Here are two recent interviews about her newest book and writing life:

You can connect with Jennifer on Twitter: @jksweeneypoet

Jennifer K. Sweeney is the author of three poetry collections: Little Spells, newly released from New Issues Press, How to Live on Bread and Music, which received the James Laughlin Award, the Perugia Press Prize and a nomination for the Poets’ Prize, and Salt Memory. She is the recipient of a Pushcart Prize, a grant from the San Francisco Arts Commission, a Hedgebrook residency, the Elinor Benedict Poetry Award from Passages North and two Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg awards. Recent poems have appeared in Academy of American Poets’ Poem-a-Day series, American Poetry Review, Cimarron Review, Crab Orchard Review, Linebreak, Lumen, Mid-American Review, New American Writing, Pleiades, Puerto del Sol, and Verse Daily. She lives in Redlands, CA with her husband, poet Chad Sweeney, and their two sons. She leads private poetry workshops and offers manuscript consultation.


One thought on “Fill in the Blanks with Jennifer K. Sweeney

  1. Pingback: Monday Must Read! Jennifer K. Sweeney: Little Spells | Mary Carroll-Hackett: Poetry and Prose

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