Recovery: A Poem
J. L. Conrad
Winner of The 2022 Robert Phillips Chapbook Prize, selected by Taylor Johnson
J. L. Conrad’s Recovery inhabits a dreamscape filled with fragments of conversation, remembered loved ones, and the profound disorientation that accompanies loss. Written over the span of a week, this poetic sequence invites us to imagine how a body flooded with grief or physical pain becomes self-identified with these sensations: a takeover that Elaine Scarry describes as annihilation, blurring “all that is inside and outside” and knotting them together. If grief is an unreality that parallels dreams—this doesn’t feel real—then poetry, with its heightened awareness, is what brings us back to the world outside the body. The incantatory poems in this sequence offer a way of moving beyond the self at a time when the only way through is through. Or, in the words that Shoshana Felman offers about Paul Celan’s poetry, “To seek reality is both to set out to explore the injury inflicted by it—to turn back on, and try to penetrate, the state of being stricken, wounded by reality [wirklichkeitswund]—and to attempt, at the same time, to reemerge from the paralysis of this state, to engage reality [Wirklichkeit suchend] as an advent, a movement, and as a vital, critical necessity of moving on.” As Conrad’s poetry provides glimpses into questions of human frailty, loss, and sentience itself, the speaker in Recovery looks not for transcendence but embraces a body marked and wounded, a body trailing ghosts.
J. L. Conrad is the author of the full-length poetry collection A Cartography of Birds (Louisiana State University Press) and the chapbook Not If but When (Salt Hill, winner of the third annual Dead Lake Chapbook Competition). Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Pleiades, Jellyfish, Sugar House Review, Salamander, Moon City Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, and elsewhere. She lives in Madison, Wisconsin, and you can find her on the web at www.jlconrad.com.