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Silk Poems
Jen Bervin




Nightboat
2017 • 220 pp. 5 x 8"
Poetry / Poetry - LGBT / Artists’ Books

$15.95 Paperback, 978-1-937658-72-4



"Silk Poems by Jen Bervin takes silk as subject and form, exploring its cultural, scientific, and linguistic complexities. Bervin’s composition corresponds to the DNA structure of silk, modeled on the way a silkworm applies filament to its cocoon."—Publishers Weekly Fall 2017 Announcements: Poetry

Silk Poems takes silk as subject and form, exploring its cultural, scientific, and linguistic complexities

In conjunction with Tufts University’s Silk Lab’s cutting-edge research on liquified silk, Jen Bervin wrote a poem composed in a six-character chain that corresponds to the DNA structure of silk; modeled on the way a silkworm applies filament to its cocoon. This poem, written from the perspective of the silkworm, explores the cultural, scientific, and linguistic complexities of silk written inside the body.

Reviews / Endorsements

Silk Poems, in its small, delicate package, is monumental in scope...and also in its wide-ranging suggestiveness...Like all of Bervin’s projects, this one is based on the fusion of text and the material world, and on careful, extensive research... She makes 'interdisciplinary' seem too narrow a word to describe the scope of the work, and her singular fabrication of wonder.”—Martha Ronk, Constant Critic

“For poet and artist Jen Bervin, whose irreducible projects unstitch the seam between text and textile, Su Hui’s labyrinthine Xuanji Tu elicited an immediate sense of creative affinity. One of the earliest extant poems by a woman—also among the most complex and unsung—the Xuanji Tu takes the form of a 29 x 29 character grid, embroidered or woven in five colors in silk, written in classical Chinese in the fourth century. An intrepid research trip, spanning four continents and culminating in Silk Poems—a Bervin piece written nanoscale and imprinted on a silk film biosensor—led her to the Suzhou Silk Museum in 2013, where a facsimile of Su Hui’s poem caught her eye. Far more elaborate than the facsimile’s English caption, “Poem to Be Read in a Circular Turn,” would imply, the reversible Xuanji Tu can be read horizontally, vertically, or diagonally. A dizzying system of signifying vectors—the colors, for one, which map onto an ancient Chinese cosmological schema of planets, elements, cardinal directions, seasons, and numbers—gives rise to a multitude of interpretations: 7,958 discrete readings as of the last count, way back in the Ming dynasty.”—Henry Ace Knight, Asymptote

“The speaker of Bervin’s poem acts as both sage and comic, exploring the text and the textile, the sense of the union of the silkworm and the poet: ‘AREYOUSURPRISED / IQUOTEAPOET // DONTBE / WEINVENTEDLANGUAGE.’ Reflecting Bervin’s project as an interdisciplinary one—where she consulted and researched across many fields—Silk Poems asks to be read through various lenses, so its reader can return to it again and again for a newly charmed and deeper understanding.”—The Arkansas International

“She makes connections between things that most of us would leave unconnected. Her artistry is vast and inclusive, by finesse and intelligence, by curiosity, wonder, forebearance, and vision.” —Mary Ruefle

“Read Jen Bervin's fascinating Silk Poems one hundred times and you will be given one hundred gifts. A first reading draws the mother silkworm as a metaphor for creativity and resilience. Another reading reveals an elegant letter to Infinity. This sensational book addresses both the past and the future; art and science; the earth and the stars. Everywhere Silk Poems is in incomparable conversation with us.”—Terrance Hayes

“Two filaments of silk combine to form a single thread. In poems of delicate beauty Bervin inventories multiple strands of a 5,000-year legacy spun from the carapace of a silkworm. To read is to inhabit the continuous reeling of an ancient insect / human tale and to emerge forever changed.”—Ann Hamilton

Silk Poems seem to unspool magically from ancient burial practice and philosophy into the future of emerging nanotechnology. This beautiful multi-disciplinary text becomes a meditation on desire and embodiment, on cultural and personal transformation, on the genetic coding of language and the enduring connection of poetic practice to other forms of making.”—Elizabeth Willis



JEN BERVIN is an interdisciplinary artist and poet whose research-driven works weave together art, writing, science, and life. She has published ten books, including Gorgeous Nothings: Emily Dickinson’s Envelope Poems. The recipient of a Creative Capital grant, she lives in Guilford, CT.



Mon, 18 Jun 2018 12:45:13 -0500