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State of Grass / Janet MacFadyen

State of Grass

By: Janet MacFadyen

€12.00
With photographs by Stephen H. SchmidtIn State of Grass, Janet MacFadyen’s poems move from immobilizing childhood silence into memory. Potatoes in the earth, peat bogs, cicada husks, and abandoned towns reveal their histories in a process that speaks to loyalties and power played out in the domestic arena. The fierce, unacknowledged dynamics between parent and child, husband and wife are compassionately and deeply explored i...
ISBN 978-1-915022-50-9
Pub Date Monday, February 26, 2024
Cover Image Cover photograph by Stephen H. Schmidt
Page Count 100
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With photographs by Stephen H. Schmidt


In State of Grass, Janet MacFadyen’s poems move from immobilizing childhood silence into memory. Potatoes in the earth, peat bogs, cicada husks, and abandoned towns reveal their histories in a process that speaks to loyalties and power played out in the domestic arena. The fierce, unacknowledged dynamics between parent and child, husband and wife are compassionately and deeply explored in this story of human failings, love, and resilience.


“I first encountered State of Grass at an annual reading from Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass. There are no accidents. Janet MacFadyen has crafted a collection no less epic in its subject, introspection, or homage. Both a haunt and a triumph, State of Grass’ exploration of familial trauma emulates Muriel Rukeyser’s provocation: “What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life? The world would split open.” I will never forget MacFadyen’s fissures of healing and reclamation as an invitation to each of us to split open our worlds of truth.”

Sandra Yannone

author of Boats for Women


“What is it to write your way out? To write your way through? .... What is it to give language to a story obscured, to recall something the mind refuses to access but the body cannot forget? For Janet MacFadyen, this work is the work of the pen, relentless and oracular, raging as wildfire might to make a roaring song, burning what needs to be burned away, cracking open longforgotten seeds that require such intensity, and ultimately, scribing into the sky a dark smoke that signals a survivor’s determination to speak, saying, here, here are my words, I am still here ....”

Nickole Brown

author of Sister

Janet MacFadyen

Janet MacFadyen is the author of five poetry collections, most recently Adrift in the House of Rocks (photo-poetry collaboration from New Feral Press 2019) and Waiting to Be Born (Dos Madres 2017). Her work has been nominated for the Forward Prize, three Pushcarts, and Best of the Net; and anthologized in 50/50: Poems and Translations by Women over 50 and Honoring Nature. Her poetry has appeared in CALYX, Crannóg, Osiris,The Naugatuck River Review, Q/A Poetry, Scientific American, Sweet, Terrain, and elsewhere. She has received a Massachusetts Cultural Council grant and a fellowship at the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center, along with residencies at Cill Rialiag, the C-Scape and Fowler dune shacks, and Wellspring House. She is the managing editor of Slate Roof Press.

I am thirteen


All day my father has been building volcanoes —

first the red powder, then the grey, into

the inverted cone set in a board with a fuse

almost anything sets off. With a match

he demonstrates to the class how it produces

a perfect cinder cone — of which Vesuvius is

the classic example.


That night he tempers the floor 

with a hammer. He pounds

his wedding ring into a match;

he pounds all the years of silences

and double messages; he pounds

the anvil of his anger until it breaks,

and then walks out. That night


I find the nuclear core of the family

glowing in my hands. The bed

catches fire; I rush out into below-zero

weather where firemen's hoses freeze

to the ground and water freezes in sheets

to the siding. I am running after him

through the feathers of ash that fall

on my lips and eyelashes.


Years later when I shovel out the cellar

I find lava is still flowing. I crack my own

plaster-of-paris cast, discover

whole families reaching for one another

encased in ash.



Before I Remembered 


I was never raped 

at least I don’t think I was 

it might have been better

if I had because at least

I would have something to tell 

I would have a door

to pound on or a face

to cut up with scissors but instead

I have only this body 

and the wall

I am up against 

is the air that continues

and continues down

the long hill to a plain 

where a black speck

burns up in the heat

it takes binoculars to see it

grinning and wavering 

out there like a mirage



Be Mine


Little body, I am taken with your 

puff and huff and groan. Little knees 

that work so hard, jackknife elbow and jangling

groin, little coin slot, little piggy bank. Little 

hair on arm and neck and cheek, thank you

for standing up and being seen. Thank you

puffy flesh, the belly of it, the bloody sack 

of it. Dear body, I am in love, smitten

by your ten toes and matching toenails,

your foot arch and knobbly ankle, knuckle

bone, collar bone, funny bone sending me

in stitches, air rushing through the front

door and breaking out the back. Oh body, 

all that I have is yours, my bobby pins and bank 

account, my stocked larder and heavy 

grieving, little boredoms and peals 

of laughter, oh all this is yours to put 

to fat and butter, all that has made me, 

dog that I am, I follow you everywhere 

panting with desire.


(The above poems are Copyright © Janet MacFadyen, 2024)

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