Dots & Dashes
Winner of the 2016 Crab Orchard Review Series in Poetry Open Competition Award.
Finalist (longlist) for the 2017 Julie Suk Award.
Honorable Mention for the 2018 Eric Hoffer Award in Poetry.
With Dots & Dashes, Jehanne Dubrow adds a sixth volume to our bookshelves of necessary poetry, and we are given a panoramic view of the landscape of marriage within the structure and confines of military life. This is a difficult and layered collection, one that refuses to avert its gaze from trouble in all its overt and nuanced forms. While these poems offer lenses into the interiority of an often closed-off world, the core experiences within these poems don’t reside on military bases and in military life alone. Isolation, separation, the silences and failures of communication—Dots & Dashes is a series of messages called out over the waters of a life, a reminder that sailors are not always the ones who are lost at sea.
Jehanne Dubrow’s newest collection, Dot & Dashes, masterfully plays with the military’s attempts of simplifying and standardizing information. With an agility of language that is both intimate and far-gazing, Dubrow examines the difficulty of communication between man and woman, military and civilian, service member and academic. Dots & Dashes acts as a sequel to her earlier, iconic Stateside; the speakers of Dots & Dashes, like those of Stateside, are often full of longing, but are also weary, wary, more mature and empathetic from too many past deployments. This exploration of relationships is written with the intensity and honesty that makes Dubrow one of our greatest poets, and the brilliance of Dots & Dashes reads loud and clear.
In her new book Jehanne Dubrow has virtually only one theme, the fact that her husband is a naval officer, but her poems make of this an extraordinarily potent subject that she discusses with great skill and panache. Her poems are so simultaneous raw and well-made, so elemental and sophisticated, as to seem almost operatic in their reach and power. One thing that she restores to poetry is the pre-modern, particularly ancient Greek, sense of the insistent link between armaments and warriors on the one hand and Eros on the other, and it’s surely not a coincidence that there are so many references to ancient Greek authors here (Homer, Sappho, Plato…). Her poems are firmly contemporary with their modern naval references, but her colloquy with other authors—not only Greek, there’s a lovely poem on Jane Austen’s Persuasion for example—gives them a sobering and timeless “’twas ever thus” feel. And not the least of its charms is that the book can be read as one long, lyrical, involved, and self-aware love poem (I doubt the word “husband” comes so many times, and with such varied emphases, in any other recent poetry book of comparable quality). A wonderful read!