Poetry Express: Jessi MacEachern+ A Number of Stunning Attacks
April 12, 2021
In her debut
A Number of Stunning Attacks (Invisible Publishing), Jessi MacEachern delivers a collection of poems about gendered existence and dream that contribute to the ongoing association of fragmented forms and women's writing. Evocative of the styles of Nicole Brossard and Anne Michaels, the poems make use of space on the page to elicit a sense of fragmentation; there is poetry within the sparseness. In a collection that feels like a series of dreams, readers will wonder: Which city is this? Which woman is this? Which reader am I?
We chat with Jessi about how the abstract was the right container for her debut collection, the way poetry is "always changing the way we experience emotion," and being impossibly tired in a year of isolation. We also share the poem "The Moat Around Her Home" from the book, below.
During the month of April, you can buy any of our featured Poetry Express books for 15% off + free shipping in Canada. Just use promo code NPMexpress at checkout. Or you can find it at your
local independent bookstore.
All Lit Up: Can you tell us a bit about your collection and how it came to be?
Jessi MacEachern: A Number of Stunning Attacks is a long poem, or a series of poems, about gender and dream. The book is divided into six parts, which vary in style, but something like a story evolves from the fragments. Those fragments describe intimate exchanges between lovers, friends, and strangers in imagery that is simultaneously violent and erotic. In these poems, intimacy is a dangerous proposition, but by the final pages of the book, it is a welcome one.
The book began as a series of lyric poems, written in workshops alongside teachers and peers whose clever sightings are still embedded here. For more than fifteen years, I have been writing and re-writing these poems: in the ice house at the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton, in the sixth-floor classrooms of Concordia University in Montreal, and in the study rooms of Université de Montréal where I was meant to be writing my doctoral dissertation.
I guess from that institutional trajectory it’s clear I am both an academic and a poet, both a critic and a writer. That may explain the book’s movement away from the lyric and into more abstract or theoretical territory. I love the lyric, but it was not a sufficient container for the index of strange sensations this book became.
Photo of Jessi MacEachern
[Image Description: A front-facing photo of the author smiling into the camera that is cut off at her chest. She is standing outdoors; there are trees behind her. She is light-skinned with chin-length red-brown hair, parted to the side, and is wearing red lipstick, a grey-brown shirt, and navy blue sweater.
ALU: What has been your most unlikely source of writing inspiration?
JM: Finishing the book! I have been writing daily since the final manuscript went to the printer. I am not yet thinking of the next book, the next project, but I am discovering new words to write in the wake of this, my first book. I worried it would be otherwise—that the book would enter the world and I would stop writing. Entirely. So far, that has not been the case and I’m allowing myself to be cautiously optimistic the new writing will continue.
This sudden burst of inspiration is made further unlikely by the isolating forces of our current moment, so I have had to dredge up old sensations for these new words to drape over. This has led to a more autobiographical direction in my writing, something I am not terribly comfortable with, but, for the moment, I’m pursuing this change with abandon. If I may, I would like to take this opportunity to publicly apologize to my writing group, who will be reading drafts tinged with childhood and adolescent yearning.
ALU: Has your idea of what poetry is changed since you began writing poems?
JM: My idea of what poetry is changes with every new piece of poetry I read. If I’m reading Ocean Vuong or fellow Montreal poet Lauren Turner, I begin to think poetry demands cutting directly into the vein of feeling. If I’m reading Erín Moure, Harryette Mullen, or my dear friend Sarah Burgoyne, I begin to think poetry demands a strange little dance with the material of language. This is the beauty of the form, I think, that it’s always changing the way we experience emotion and thought.
ALU: What are you most in the mood to read these days? Any poets you’re especially enjoying?
JM: I have developed a recent interest in science fiction, so I am in the middle of N. K. Jemisin’s The City We Became and I am about to begin the third installment of Doris Lessing’s five-volume “space fiction” Canopus in Argos: Archives. I am also rereading Lyn Hejinian’s My Life, as well as reading her Positions of the Sun for the first time. These are the two poetic texts accompanying my new writing’s embrace of the “autobiofictionalography” (to quote the great comics artist/writer Lynda Barry). Finally, as I respond to this question, my hand is also itching to open up the most recent poetry collection on my desk, Larissa Lai’s Iron Goddess of Mercy.
ALU: Describe your ideal escape.
JM: It’s summertime. I’m in Prince Edward Island lying on the sand of Lakeside Beach. It’s hot and sunny. It’s not yet noon and the afternoon promises to be endless. At hand is a cooler of cold beer and a good novel, too, for the moments you grow tired (but who could?) of listening to the ocean waves.
Can returning home count as an escape? I think so, if you’ve left your laptop and your phone and maybe even your partner in Montreal. It’ll all be there when you return, and that’s nice to know, but for now there’s just the summertime.
I hope a return to the island will be possible this summer. Like everyone, a year into this pandemic, I’m feeling impossibly tired. In fact, my partner has been subconsciously sighing aloud “I am so tired” as he walks through our apartment. I’ve pointed this out to him and he’s been surprised to learn he is thinking this, never mind uttering it aloud, but he nevertheless continues the chant, “I am so tired.” I would like a sun-soaked escape, outside the city, from our shared pandemic slogan.
She keeps a notebook labelled dreams to have in which
She is careless in the sunshine
She flirts with car doors the city is quick
If quickness is a synonym for wit she has arranged a parade
It is proper that the women should remain indoors See:
Some creature has gotten in the sauce cremini
Blackened garlic her carpet a feast for the ceiling eyes
Male bodies flush with squealing
Unclean lives are best suited to indoor rain
Best considered against a wall against which the only mirror
Tattered remnants paper-made fixtures
an altar for the grasshopper carcass fine
Scribbled contact promises instant acquaintances
The women are learning
A white splinter in her gum
She grins she wallows where fallen leaves are falling still
Who brought the outside in?
* * *
Jessi MacEachern lives in Montréal, QC. Her poetry has been published in Poetry Is Dead, Vallum, MuseMedusa, Canthius, PRISM, and CV2. You can read her chapbook Ravishing the Sex Into the Hold online at
MODEL PRESS. Her first full-length poetry collection is A Number of Stunning Attacks (Invisible Publishing, 2021). She is currently working as an Assistant Professor in the Department of English at Concordia University. (Twitter:
@jessisays / Instagram:
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