Thursday, November 13, 2014

Jeanine Hall Gailey's "Unexplained Fevers"

Jeanine Hall Gailey's full-length collection Unexplained Fevers was the 2nd place winner of the 2014 Elgin Awards. It was published by New Binary Press, a company founded in 2012 by James Sullivan.

Unexplained Fevers is her third book, which "frees fairy tale heroines from their glass coffins and towers while simultaneously looking at the traps that contemporary women encounter – body image, drug abuse, illness – and how to find power and freedom beyond these limitations."

She has a great set of credentials behind her, including Poet Laureate of Redmond, Washington. Her other books include Becoming the Villainess (Steel Toe Books, 2006) and She Returns to the Floating World (Kitsune Books, 2011) which was a 2012 Eric Hoffer Montaigne Medal finalist. She keeps an active website up at You can also follow her on twitter at @webbish6

A part-time teacher at the National University MFA program, her poetry publications include work in the Iowa Review, the American Poetry Review and Prairie Schooner. She's also had writing appear at Verse Daily, The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror and NPR's The Writer's Almanac.

In Unexplained Fevers she takes us through some interesting journeys among the classic fairy tale writers such as the Grimm Brothers and Charles Perrault.

She opens her collection with the classic words "Once Upon A Time" and everything is fair game from there, whether it's Scheherazade's A Thousand and One Nights or the Old Testament. One of the questions we get to examine is how do we diagnose, or discuss the question of diagnosis in the old days, especially in fairy tales and myth. Of course, we take many side quests along the way, which is as it should be.

Her collection is divided into five core parts: "That Kind of Girl," "The Substituted Heart," "Girls in Glass Boxes," "Variants," and "What Happens After Snow." The good majority of her poems are engaging with fairy tales and narratives largely familiar to European America, rarely venturing exceptionally beyond into other traditions.

Still, there's much that can resonate with an international readership here and give us a few ideas of how we might grapple with myths and legends from other regions of the world.

"At the End" was a great and appropriate cap. Unexplained Fevers has many standouts that will linger with me including "The Knight Wonders, What, Exactly, He Rescued," "Reflections on Glass Boxes, Mirrors, And Other Enchantments," "Moth-Girl," and "Alice, Through the Looking Glass." Her take on Hansel and Gretel is a fine read next to the original. Snow White, Rose Red and Rapunzel made regular appearances throughout but I'd keep an eye out for the less familiar figures who don't often appear in poems.

It will definitely be interesting to see where she goes with her next collections.

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