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Arts in Review

Jasper Avery’s number one earth is a balm for those who need it



Published by Metatron Press, Jasper Avery’s number one earth is a collection of poems as much as it is a meditation on longing, belonging, and healing. Underscored by Avery’s unhurried, wildly imaginative verse, number one earth imagines individual earthly experiences as constitutive of their own worlds, their own planet Earths, which are revealed to us calmly, methodically, and with a singular focus on the experience of healing a past hurt.

number one earth’s already electric premise is made all the more powerful by how accessible Avery ensures it is to all readers. In the first of the book’s three sections, Avery establishes a narrative frame through which they explore states of being (usually transitory states) through metaphorical Earths, suspended in jars of apricot jam inside a microwave oven or on a kitchen counter. On top of establishing a narrative frame, Avery vocalizes a deep sense of longing throughout the collection.

In vi they introduce the book’s jam jar image, which serves as a narrative framing device.

“i am fourteen jars of apricot jam / for missing you / emptied and washed / set out on the countertop / to remember the presence / of apricot jam,” writes Avery. “all physical events contain prior apricot jam / i am all physical events for missing you.”

In viii the number of Earths in jam jars has increased, which is reflective of the generative lean in Avery’s verse. Without fanfare or casting the increasing number of jam jars as an artificial imposition, Avery revels in a natural, unhurried growth, inside of which they take refuge.

“i am now in possession of 371 earths / they live in jam jars full of pondlife / i have placed in my microwave.” Later in the same poem, Avery uses the image to launch into the book’s main section: “the sum of all other / physical sensations in the known universe / is more or less the sum of / apricot jams / that inhabit jam jars / now rewilding kitchen appliances… with this much accomplished / i begin to catalogue / the ways and things / in which i am / for missing you.”

If the collection’s central premise seems convoluted in principle, it is only because Avery attempts to recreate the many moments and times which make up an individual’s experience of living. In this, Avery embraces the transness of moving through states, physical, spiritual, temporal, or otherwise. Through the rest of the book, Avery explores their childhood, their fears, and a radical sympathy with the natural world, borne out of a connection which is never explicitly stated, but always clearly present.

The book’s soft boundaries are a result of Avery’s unbridled imaginative dedication, through which they create a series of worlds within worlds and along the way, assert a forgiving, accepting ethos that encompasses Avery’s childhood and adult experiences, but is open also to the reader’s. In their creation of a space for healing and acceptance (of the self, of the parts of the self in need of healing), Avery opens up an opportunity for the further implementation of wilful empathy and patience (towards the self, others).

Even when standing on the deck of a sinking ship surrounded by depression, or self-doubt, or self-negation, or any other pit into which young people or people in transit through life may fall, Avery, accompanying the reader, offers us not necessarily a solution, but a sentiment which, put into practice, becomes in and of itself the beginning of reaching a solution when navigating hurt: empathy.

“i am sorry about the ship,” writes Avery. “i can find you a new one.”

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