Space Inhabited by Echoes

Karen Jennings

Candid poems about relationships, family and moving country

Sample Passages

  • Other Country

    Even now I find myself waking
    or rising from the couch,
    thinking I’m in that other
    country where we lived
    before.

    I turn to a cupboard, a room,
    turn to something we
    no longer have,
    remembering, then, that it
    was sold, or left behind.

    The stirring’s worst when the
    sounds of that place
    have been with me in sleep,
    and I am already waking
    to somewhere that
    I only pretend to know.

Sample Information

Summary

Space Inhabited by Echoes is a very frank and poignant collection of poems in four parts inspired by the author’s personal experiences. It takes the reader on a journey from the first pangs of love to settling down to a new life.

Part I is about relationships, tentative beginnings, a liaison gone sour, of relationships before. It’s also about finding your feet in life and, looking back, be surprised at how far you have moved on.

How strange to find
after years of love that
what remains between
us is only

space inhabited
by echoes
and the people we
once were.

Part II is about emigrating to a completely new country in order to be with the person you love. Moving between continents, from South Africa to Brazil, Karen Jennings eloquently describes how this affects her personal life and her relation with her husband. Not side stepping the problems of adjusting to a new environment, very appropriate for these times, when many people have to come to grips with life in a new country.

At home they asked,
and, It’s an adventure,
it’s different,
I told them, told myself,

though already I was
sick with thoughts.
Sombre you might call them,
even black.

Part III is about accepting reality and learning to enjoy new experiences. It shows the author’s fascination with the flora and fauna around her. This theme is prominent in all of Karen Jennings’s work.

It flew in at the kitchen window,
scruffy with adolescence,

sitting, as though born to it,
on the broad part of my hand,
where it shat waterly
the melon we’d thrown out.

Part IV is inspired by some of the people who formed her, mother, grandfather and a twin that never was. It highlights the bittersweet aspects of dealing with close relatives and an unexpected surprise at finding out about a new family member.

It is hard to bite a tongue

that burns with so much love.

We replicate their errors,
though we say we never will,
holding ourselves upright with inheritance,
a habit blood-bound, too ancient
to be upturned.

Daring and personal, Space Inhabited by Echoes reminds you of Sylvia Plath’s poetry.

where every day is
to be compared
to someone
who never was.

The Poems

I
January
Meeting
Nella
Morning Alone
A Study
Apart from a Mug
Hald
Phonecall
The Distance
Yellow Cushion

II
New Life
Other Country
We came to stay
Before Sleep
Dogs
Slenderness
Anniversary
Stain
Here
Theft
Cave
Burning
Let me go

III
Survival
Ants
Photo: December 2016
Excavation
Toucan
Itamonte

IV
Mother
Twin
Carpet Bowls
Funeral
Grandfather I
Grandfather II
Reflection
the secret child
Friendship

Space Inhabited by Echoes was published on 17 May 2018. For more information and review copies please contact the publisher: Bernadette@hollandparkpress.co.uk, + 44 (0) 7792611929.

The launch was celebrated with a party on Wednesday 6 June in The Book Lounge 71 Roeland Street Cape Town 8001.

Other work by Karen Jennings published by Holland Park Press: Finding Soutbek, a novel about the plight of poor black people present-day South Africa, shortlisted for the inaugural Etisalat Prize for Literature, Away from the Dead, a short story collection, mostly set in South Africa, and Travels with My Father, a memoir and the author’s account of mourning for her late father.

ISBN: 9781907320774
Number of pages: 70
Price: £0

Reviews

‘Authors like Margaret Atwood, Nadine Gordimer or Jeanette Winterson impress with their literary chameleon natures. Karen Jennings is only at the beginning of her career as a wordsmith, but is showing all the signs she is destined for the kind of greatness the writers mentioned above have achieved in the course of their lives.

The poems are intimate and deeply personal, but still hold universal truths.

Words sparkle in her hands. Readers of her work can expect to be enlightened in all possible ways.’ – Cape Times

‘Karen Jennings shows here she is that rare writer who can change genre mid-stream. Her poems display a virtuosity and depth that many poets only reach later in their careers.’ – Kobus Moolman

‘This is a breath-taking debut. With simplicity and control, Karen Jennings presents human emotions in all their messy glory: she writes with piercing clarity and honesty of the grief and comfort, connection and cruelty that mark love, dislocation, alienation and loss.’ – Helen Moffett

‘There is something about Karen Jennings’s quiet, understated poetry that enchants me. It refuses to strain towards the literary and refuses to compete with the earnest. It offers its gifts – of transcendence, of solace, of delicate silences – without fanfare, but often with some metaphorical force.’ – Rustum Kozain

‘The subject matter and the intimacy of her perspective results in insightful, sensitive and forthright poems.’ –  Tony Ullyatt on litnet