Savage Pageant (Birds, LLC)
Savage Pageant recounts the history of the defunct zoo, Jungleland, which housed Hollywood’s show animals up until its closure in 1969. In it, Stark explores the concept of US American spectacle and its historic ties to celebrity culture, the maternal body, racist taxonomies, the mistreatment of animals, and ecological violence. With a hybrid, documentary poetics, Savage Pageant reveals how we attempt to narrate and control geographical space and how ghosts (remainders, the sketch, unfinished stories) collapse the tidy corners of our collective, accumulative histories.
Check out an excerpt on Verse here.
And an introduction / excerpt by Vi Khi Nao for Tupelo Quarterly here.
Pleiades, Dorothy Chan, September 2020.
Diacritics, Paul Bonnell, June 2020.
Sundress Reads, Kanika Lawton, May 2020.
Heavy Feather Review, Rita Hynes, May 2020.
Carolina Quarterly, Jessica Covil, May 2020.
EcoTheo, Jessica Cuello, April 2020.
Rob McClennan, April 2020.
IndyWeek, Sarah Edwards, January 2020.
Praise for Savage Pageant
“To ‘write history with lightning’ or ‘dine with fine ghosts’ at the edge of a wood requires a map, because how else will you get there/do that? In Jessica Stark’s Savage Pageant, this map is an ‘undulation,’ a ‘fold,’ something lightly sketched then traced on “something blackened, worn-out, and organized.’ Stark’s brilliant move in this powerful new work is to problematize the paper itself: the surfaces that receive the many marks that a poet, an inhabitant, an animal, an archivist or an audience-member might make. I loved, most of all, the ‘strange beasts’ that are drawn and written with such lavish and specific curiosity. There was a consistent feeling of delight and surprise as I moved through the social and mythological world of blood, verbs, and ‘stories better left unsaid’ that Stark makes and un-makes. What a brilliant writer. What a lovely and strange book.”
“Jessica Q. Stark’s new book Savage Pageant is a book like no other. No where else can a reader find themselves so perfectly positioned among ‘sunsank and missing persons’ or among ‘misinformation and contaminated waters.’ Part poetry book, part collection of private, personal, and public histories, part summons, part rune, this book takes you head first into the other world, where all you can do is swim past your own hurts and traumas into the sunshine hole of the unreal. This book is about being human, and painfully so. It’s a book we must remember as we begin to forget ourselves. Maybe that’s this time we are in right now and maybe it is all of time. I’ll risk it all to say that we need this book for all of time, to take with us as a guide from here until the everlasting. ‘We are only here for a / short time’ the book says to us. And because it’s true, we listen.”
“The body of poetry needs a new script and, sassy, inventive poetess and scholar, Jessica Q. Stark , is more than happy to savagely oblige and provide. Here is her beast, her junglehatch made of tiger’s saline, a genealogical bite or two. Her poetry is a box office disgorgement, where heroes and foes tried to not eat each other alive in between the pages. ‘We know memory, / like a trapped lion, must snack on / dry sandwiches to survive.’ She will lure you in, take you prisoner at the intersection between her candid prose and her ferociously minimal, comic drawings that are in themselves, poetic in their lion-like poise. At her height of multi-tasking, birthing simultaneously son and book, she holds you captive with her carnival performance of ingenious gestures, where language and motherhood play informal games of anatomic brilliance and take you through her sanitary mayhem of pandemoniac beauty and birth. There will be an intermission of pregnancy. An interlude of cautionary tales on mauling for mothers. Unlike Leo at MGM, who would only roar and maul, when the stage light is turned on, Stark’s Savage Pageant is an exceptional animal as it has the unseeable ability to claw, scratch your literary itch, lacerate your imagination, and tear you to pieces both in the dark and in the light.”
—Vi Khi Nao
Vasilisa the Wise, Ethel Zine Press (2018)
A hand-sewn, mini-chapbook reimagining of the folktale, Vasilisa the Beautiful, in which Vasilisa encounters the witch Baba Yaga and wields a wooden doll that can quickly perform domestic duties. She doesn’t marry, like most versions imply. But she does live happily ever after under no-name, a no-princess for a tale gone right.
Order online directly from Ethel here.
The Liminal Parade, Heavy Feather Review (2016)
Chapbook manuscript selected by Dorothea Lasky for Heavy Feather Review‘s Double Take Poetry Prize. Juxtaposition of illustrations of Britney Spears crying on YouTube with poems and illustrations inspired by 1904 World’s Fair. Online version available here.