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Cover of Common Ancestor by Jenny Irish
January 2017
Black Lawrence Press

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Common Ancestor

Jenny Irish

Alberto Ríos, author of "A Small Story about the Sky," says about this book of hybrid fiction/poetry: "Extreme intimacy paired simultaneously with objective distance — it is an odd, almost impossible, but compelling juxtaposition of feelings and revelations that we are gifted with in this book. The language is consistently profound even in its brevity, equal measures of brutally frightening and whisperingly tender. These are survivor monologues, emanating from somewhere between poetry and ruthlessness, the words not poems, exactly, but poetries, moments of their own devising, sudden, without history, without blueprint. Added to this layering, the rhyme we hear — so close to childhood — keeps us close to center, but we are no less scared. These are a litany of confidences, not examinations, not explained, but shared hard and felt forcefully. They are fierce even in their quietude and made fiercer when the words will not say what they say. Language here is a study of language, of how much the speaker wants to be to the speaker but in being the speaker is in constant and imminent danger. This is a powerful offering."


Jenny Irish is assistant director of creative writing at Arizona State University, where she also earned her MFA in creative writing in 2016.