It was a long silence that brought me to the erasure poem. Not mine, but my brother’s, during his many months in a coma. I came across a notebook of his—a pocketsized, handwritten field guide of prairie grasses. I read it for companionship, signs of consciousness, attention. I read it for the rhythms of his still and distant hand…. I was reading a taxonomy of grief: silique drifted into soliloquy.
Between 2008 and 2014, while her brother was in a lengthy coma, award-winning poet Jennifer Still engaged in a private collaboration with the art and wonder that was his handwritten field guide of prairie grasses. The result: the stunning works of poetry and imagery encapsulated in Comma.
Still was moved by an overarching impulse of grief to create these poems. In the brittle lexicon of botany, and in the hum of the machines keeping her brother alive, she developed a hands-on method of composition that plays with the possibilities of what can be ‘read’ on a page. Comma enacts a state of transformation and flux, all in an effort to portray the embodiment of grief and regeneration that can be achieved in the physical breakdown and reassembly of lyric poetic forms.