Instructions between Takeoff and Landing
University of Akron Press
The poems in Instructions between Takeoff and Landing take place in the middle of myriad journeys: tracking the twin Voyager satellites as they vanish into the unknown, reckoning with a troubling national history, looking back at life lived and forward to the life yet to come. Speakers meditate on the death of loved ones and their own mortality, relationships bent and broken, misleading histories at odds with personal stories, faith and doubt, a ubiquitous media culture, and their own origins and hoped-for destinations. Weaving deft transitions in tone from tender to bombastic, apologetic to brash, and humorous to elegiac, this collection asserts the ways in which even now, we strive to contain Whitmanic multitudes within the constantly shifting borders of self. Poems hover in the liminal space between traditional and innovative form, locating there a way to entice the reader to enter while pushing the boundaries of what poetry can do. Amid this collection's formal inventions, poems offer a sustained reading comprehension exam that both encapsulates and interrogates the speaker, the culture, and even the reader. In the context of a nation hinging on the axes of justice, freedom, self-expression, and tragedy, the voices in these poems reflect on how they both shape and are shaped by the invisible forces and inescapable influences that surround us.
Charles Jensen is the author of the poetry collections Nanopedia and The First Risk and seven chapbooks of poetry and nonfiction. His poems have appeared in American Poetry Review, New England Review, Prairie Schooner, and elsewhere. The City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs designated him a Cultural Trailblazer, and he has received the Outwrite Nonfiction Chapbook Award, Zócalo Poetry Prize, Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Prize, and a grant from the Arizona Commission on the Arts. He directs the Writers' Program at UCLA Extension.