Jena Osman
September 2010


Sarah MangusoJena Osman is an Associate Professor of English at Temple University, where she teaches in the graduate Creative Writing Program. Her books of poems include An Essay in Asterisks (Roof Books, 2004) and The Character (Beacon Press, winner of the 1998 Barnard New Women Poets Prize). Her book The Network was a 2009 winner of the National Poetry Series and will be published by Fence Books in fall 2010. Other publications include Jury (Meow Press), Amblyopia (Avenue B), and Twelve Parts of Her (Burning Deck Press). Her work has appeared in anthologies such as The Best American Poetry of 2002 (selected by Robert Creeley), as well as in literary journals such as American Letters & Commentary, Conjunctions, Hambone, Verse, and XCP: Cross-Cultural Poetics. Her photoessay-poem “Public Figures” can be found in the online journal HOW2.

Her poems have been translated into French, Swedish, and Serbo-Croatian. Osman received a 2006 Pew Fellowship in the Arts, as well as grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York Foundation for the Arts, The Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, the Howard Foundation, and the Fund for Poetry. She has been a writing fellow at the MacDowell Colony, the Blue Mountain Center, the Djerassi Foundation, and Chateau de la Napoule. With Juliana Spahr, she founded and edited the literary magazine Chain. After twelve years the journal went on extended hiatus; Osman and Spahr now edit the ChainLinks Book series.


Statement of Poetics

While gathering together poems to go on this site, I came to realize that most of my recent work doesn’t fit the format. The poems are pretty long and sprawling, and their formatting and use of images would require some kind of pdf reproduction or digital engineering. So consider what’s here as just part of a rather messy project.

For a long time now I’ve been interested in the intersection of the essay and the poem, and how a poem can be a generous context for endlessly unwinding research. The research inevitably leads to wild connections that I could never have reached in a more “defined” genre. I like the idea of a poem as tracking the mind as it thinks.

I’ve been profoundly influenced by the work of Susan Howe and the way in which she uses poetry to explore submerged histories. And I have a strong interest in found language—particularly that which might be considered “public” (newspapers, law cases, press conferences, political propaganda). A poem can help you to hear the news that’s behind the news. Finally, I’ve found the poet Joan Retallack’s concept of “poethics” particularly useful in its hopefulness that forms of art—which Retallack describes as forms of life—can model the kind of world in which we’d like to live. For me, that world provokes complex thinking…it’s a world that is difficult yet delightful.


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