Sunday, March 18, 2018

Itzhak Perlman's Broken String - Jacqueline Jules (Evening Street Press)

Today's book of poetry:
Itzhak Perlman's Broken String.  Jacqueline Jules.  Evening Street Press.  Sacramento, California.  2017.


The legend of Itzhak Perlman's broken string is certainly worth knowing and Jacqueline Jules quite naturally starts this book off with a brief explanation.  It's a moving story, a great anecdote and a marvelous metaphor chalked full of portent.  It's a corker about perseverance, the nature of creativity and adaptability.  This story provides Jules with all she needs for ballast as she plunges into poems about the nature of grief and loss in a world full of brevity.

Jacqueline Jules is writing about grief and about how loss moves in and takes over the steering of the ship.  For my generation, born in the '50s, these are common enough waters, so many of our friends, family and loved ones have slipped beneath the waves, slipped away from this mortal coil.

Letter to 30 Year Old Self

Time recolors every red moment to pale blue.

The colleague who called you "anal"
was correct. The teacher who criticized
your two year old was tactless but on target.

A broken car on the day of a big interview
may not be the worst luck you have.
There are bigger monsters under the bed
and when they reach for your neck
with large bony digits you will regret
past grief over stained white pants
and stolen credit cards.

Patience buys more sleep than pills.

Answers not yet available
should be tucked beneath the pillow
like a baby tooth for the fairy.

Every life is lived on a high wire,
strung over the treetops,
just below the clouds.

Don't expect to feel safe.

Put one slippered foot in front of the other
and balance, arms extended,
for as long as you can.


Today's book of poetry made a point of playing some Itzhak Perlman recordings while the gang were hammering today's blog together.  As much as we love his playing on John Williams soundtrack for Schindler's List, we went a little more classical today.  Tchaikovsky - Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 35 - featuring Itzhak Perlman.  That certainly set a tone.

Some of the greatest works of art are about loss and grief.  Today's book of poetry thinks of Henryk G√≥recki: Symphony No. 3 [“Symphony of Sorrowful Songs”], Op. 36 or Pablo Picasso's Guernica.

Jacqueline Jules isn't forgiving anyone in Itzhak Perlman's Broken String for her despair.  Loss leaves everything less vivid and when hope does appear it comes at a terrible cost.  Jules is able to keep the tension taut in Itzhak Perlman's Broken String without ever breaking the string or alienating her audience with the sad tentacles of her on-going dismay.

The Mystery of Falling Objects

They say an apple
from his mother's garden
hit him on the head.

Created the "Eureka Moment"
when all became clear, a fundamental
law of nature revealed.

Though I find it hard to believe
no one noticed before Isaac Newton
that a glass thrown in anger
sinks to the floor. Somehow
we needed Newton's math to prove
we are vulnerable to falling objects.

At least until Einstein came along
with a theory most can quote
but few profess to comprehend.

Gravity, the reason why
everything on earth is pulled
by unknown forces. Why Prayer
cannot modify what is meant to be.

Yet both Science and Faith insist
nothing is random,
and the universe must be forgiven
when one falling body floats in the air
and another crashes with a deafening thud.


Another splendid morning read at the Today's book of poetry offices.  Maggie, our new intern, has been quite enthusiastic about our policy of a morning read of the day's poet.  She invited her friends Tomas and Frieda to join in today's read and they both did themselves proud.

Jacqueline Jules writes the type of poetry we like best here at Today's book of poetry.  It is immediately accessible, emotionally implicating and ultimately entirely rewarding.  These poems go straight to that part of our hearts that knows grief and all of his sad friends.

Dry Needling

If you stick a needle
in a hyper-irritable spot,
taut muscles will relax,
my therapist says.

I laugh at his silly plan.
Better to tease a tiger
than poke the pain.

My therapist insists.

Find the trigger. Stick
a needle in the spot.
Push till you feel
your grief twist
and twitch.

Disrupt the spasm
pinching the nerve
tighter and tighter.


Jacqueline Jules is a prolific author with over 40 titles in various genres to her credit but so far, only a couple of chapbooks of her fine poetry.  Today's book of poetry would enthusiastically welcome more poetry from Jules.  Like Itzhak Perlman, Jules is able to continue to create beauty even after one of her strings has been broken.


Jacqueline Jules

Jacqueline Jules is a former librarian, who was intrigued by every book she put on the shelf. As a reader and as a writer, she does not restrict herself to one genre.
She is the author of 40 books for young readers on a wide variety of topics, including the Zapato Power series, the Sofia Martinez series, Feathers for Peacock, and Never Say a Mean Word Again.
Her poetry has appeared in over a hundred publications including Evening Street Review,Inkwell, Poetica, Killing the Angel, Soundings Review, The Innisfree Poetry Journal, Potomac Review, Imitation Fruit, Calyx, Broadkill Review, and Pirene's Fountain.
She has received the Library of Virginia Cardozo Award, the Spirit First Poetry Award, the Sydney Taylor Honor Award, an Aesop Accolade, the SCBWI Magazine Merit Award, and the Arlington Arts Moving Words Award.
Her poetry chapbooks, Field Trip to the Museum (Finishing Line Press) and Stronger Than Cleopatra (ELJ Publications), were released in 2014. She lives in Northern Virginia with her husband where she spends most of her time exercising, reading, and writing. Visit her author website at and her teaching tips blog, Pencil Tips Writing Workshop at

In the apocryphal story told about Yitzhak Perlman during his concert at Lincoln Center in 1995 when one of the four violin strings suddenly tore, and he proceeded to reconceive and play the entire work with three remaining strings, he said that “sometimes it is the artist’s task to find out how much music you can make with what you have left.” If ever there were a work that explores the aftermath of loss, it is this powerful and highly original collection by Jacqueline Jules. “Every life is lived on a high wire,/ strung over the treetops…//Don’t expect to feel safe.” The poet reminds us not to waste time grieving over “stolen credit cards” and a “broken car on the day of a big interview.” Reminds us how “Joy sits on a seesaw with Grief.” If it’s divinity we seek, best we gather the “stone tablets” and carry them through the wilderness of time. Consolation can be “sunlight/streaming through/serrated shapes…like fingers” that “wipe” away “tears.”
—Myra Sklarew, Author of Lithuania: New & Selected Poems

What plucks at the heart strings of Jacqueline Jules’ intense poems of Itzhak Perlman’s Broken String is a dialectic between faith and loss where science mediates. “Both Science and Faith insist/ nothing is random.” Grief is a squatter—an unwanted presence after friends and family leave the bereaved. The poet dares to challenge Jean-Paul Sartre on despair and suggests to the physical therapist “better to tease a tiger/ than poke a pain.” Everything connects: Emily Dickinson, vending machines, a gypsy girl with rocks in her pockets who steps into a river. This is a smart and smarting journey through the human condition.
—Karren L. Alenier, author of The Anima of Paul Bowles

This lovely and moving collection explores what happens when grief is chronic. After the shock of initial loss, when grief becomes a daily companion, we must learn, as Jacqueline Jules wisely writes, to find music in our crippled instruments. Like Jean-Paul Sartre, we “cross that cruel river”; like Isaac Newton, our personal math proves “we are vulnerable to falling objects.”
—Kim Roberts, founding editor of Beltway Poetry Quarterly

"Stronger Than Cleopatra"
Jacqueline Jules
Video:  ELJ Publications: Title Art



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