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Poet Dubrow’s Fifth Collection Delves into Themes of Violence and Forced Intimacy

February 26, 2015
The unsettling stories Jehanne Dubrow’s prose poems tell in The Arranged Marriage are based on stories from her mother’s early life in Honduras and El Salvador.

CHESTERTOWN, MD—Poet Jehanne Dubrow, director of the Rose O’Neill Literary House at Washington College, has published her fifth collection, a book of prose poems praised for their searing insights about the lasting impact of trauma and the complexities of marriage.  

The Arranged Marriage (University of New Mexico Press, March 2015) is based on several years’ worth of interviews with Dubrow’s mother, who shared stories from her Jewish-Latina childhood and early adulthood in Honduras and El Salvador.  It is the first collection of prose poems from a poet who usually works in traditional verse forms. “For this book, I felt that the prose poem would be the most effective form for exploring the themes of violence, captivity, and different kinds of forced intimacy or closeness,” she says. “On the page, the poems in The Arranged Marriage are narrow, like newspaper columns; they speak in a detached manner, allowing me to engage in a kind of reportage and to write about my mother’s experiences in a way that is simultaneously personal and clinical.”  

Fellow poets had strong words of praise for the new collection. Poet and editor Kevin Prufer wrote, “Jehanne Dubrow has a storyteller’s gift for suggesting, with enviable economy of language, the complexities of our relationships with those we love and the inescapable past that surrounds us. Elegant, intimate, and unsettling, The Arranged Marriage is a terrific—an important—book.” And Hilda Raz, Mary Burritt Christiansen Poetry Series editor and former editor of the literary journal Prairie Schooner, said Dubrow’s book “tells us a story so compelling that we put down our tasks and turn to her voice.”  

While still in manuscript form The Arranged Marriage was honored as the recipient of the 2012 Poetry Society of America’s Alice Fay di Castagnola Award. In her Judge’s Statement for the book, nationally known poet and playwright Claudia Rankine wrote, “Details in these stunning prose poems are presented like mini still lifes creating patterns of preparation for victimization, retaliation, or escape. …  Dubrow understands that before the moment of trauma, the break in time, there was a thing or a thought put in place. The poet here is positioned to observe, to picture, and to record in order to communicate coherence in the face of incoherence.” 

Dubrow says being honored by Rankine was a great encouragement, “a message that I should keep writing these poems.” More reassurance came when three poems from the collection were awarded the Anna Davidson Rosenberg Prize for Poetry on the Jewish Experience. 

The poet will read from the collection at a book launch event at the Literary House, 407 Washington Avenue on Saturday, March 7, at 2:30 p.m. (RSVPs are requested; email to jdubrow2@washcoll.edu.) 

Poet Jehanne Dubrow is director of the Rose O'Neill Literary House at Washington College.Poet Jehanne Dubrow is director of the Rose O'Neill Literary House at Washington College.The Arranged Marriage is Dubrow’s fifth book. Her first, The Hardship Post, won the Three Candles Press Open Book Award in 2009, and her second, From the Fever-World, won the Washington Writers’ Publishing House Poetry Competition, also in 2009. Northwestern University Press published Stateside in 2010 and Red Army Red in 2012.  

Dubrow’s poetry, creative nonfiction and book reviews have appeared in numerous journals, including Southern Review, The New Republic, Poetry, The Hudson Review, and The New England Review, as well as on Poetry Daily, Verse Daily, and Fresh Air.  She co-edited The Book of Scented Things: 100 Contemporary Poems About Perfume (2014). It was published through The Literary House Press, where Dubrow is Series Editor. 

She has received many awards, including an Individual Artist’s Award from the Maryland State Arts Council, the 2012 Towson Prize for Literature, a Walter E. Dakin Fellowship and Howard Nemerov Poetry Scholarship from the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, and a Sosland Foundation Fellowship from the Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies. In addition to directing activities at the Literary House, Dubrow is associate professor of English as well as editor of Cherry Tree: A National Literary Journal @ Washington College.

Last modified on Feb. 27th, 2015 at 2:37pm by .