Listen to me: If you miss TJ Jarrett reading her poetry at Scarritt Bennett Center Thursday at 7:00 pm, you will regret it for the rest of your life.
How do I know this? My bird brain was absolutely sure that the reading was LAST Thursday. I was in a meeting and didn’t skip out because I am SO IMPORTANT. I felt devastated after. I tweeted my heartbreak at a friend, who told me otherwise. I could have kissed her.
I love being wrong. But don’t be like me. Prioritize poetry in your life.
Jarrett’s poetry is magical. I have read Zion, her second collection, published 2014, and spent hours chasing her characters back and forth as their moments wove through Jarrett’s words. There’s Aunt Polly, Cicely Tyson, the ghost of her grandfather, her grandmother, and Theodore Bilbo – U.S. Senator, two-time governor of Mississippi, and KKK member. In Chapter 16, Maria Brown wrote of the Bilbo poems: “There’s a kind of moral passion at work between the two protagonists; the desire to be forgiven is met with an equally powerful, though conflicted, desire to forgive.
One thing I love about Zion is how the poems seem very still, yet have a great deal of movement; a slow-burning anxiety observed through Jarrett’s watchful eyes. For those who love story-poems, there is much to be discovered. Those who prefer the contemplative will find many lines on which to linger. But what I think is a major draw to Jarrett’s poetry is her ability to resist moralizing while telling the truths of the human heart in conflict with both itself and our history. Poet Jean Valentine said of Jarrett’s first collection Ain’t No Grave, “I was more lonely before I heard this voice.”
Jarrett said in an interview with The Atlantic last year:
I believe in redemption. I believe some poems are really prayer. I believe one is called to write poems because God knows it’s not for money. I believe the words move you and not the other way around. I believe that one should submit humbly to hearing what the soul has to say. I’m not terribly religious, but I know some poems come, and I just stand by and attend their journey into the world.
Jarrett lives in Nashville, and in addition to being a poet, she is a software engineer. How dope is that?
The reading will be at Scarritt Bennett Center in Fondren Hall at 7:00 p.m. on Thursday, May 26. Unlike every place else in the Vanderbilt area, Scarritt Bennett has two amazing and free parking lots. Lot A is closest to Fondren. Here is a map of their campus.