The Work of the Body by Jill Kelly Koren


In Jill Koren’s aptly titled The Work of the Body are poems of so precisely a human scale that they feel spoken quietly by a friend over coffee. —Ross Gay


  • Kind: Perfectbound
  • Pages: 130
  • Language: English
  • Date Published: May, 2015
  • ISBN: 978-1-939929-19-8


Working in the tradition of Whitman, Levertov, and Rich, Jill Kelly Koren maps the terrain where the ordinary work of mothering can take on ethical and mythic dimensions. But she does not turn away from the terrors of parenthood either, and in poems like “Icarus Bounced,” she testifies with empathy to the “invisible injury” that can result from “one body bearing another.” Read this book of the “body electric” to observe the small acts of nurturing that can shelter us and our fragile planet. —Karen Kovacik

Jill Koren’s poems beautifully explore how we come to know our deeper selves and “a blood-and-lust music [that] refuses to be contained.” The desire to hear these deeper rhythms lies both in the body and in a branching out into the larger body of family (parents, grandparents, her spouse and children) and the world. However, family for her inhabits a dual role—rendered, quite beautifully, as itself but also as a powerful vehicle for the poet’s inner journey. The pain of being human becomes a beautiful wound that simultaneously offers redemption, for as Koren says, “to dab at whatever hurt me, / wipe away whatever blood bloomed from my broken skin.” Just as Muriel Rukeyser says the body must break on its movement toward wholeness, Koren—in these touchingly human poems—gives us both the blood and its bloom. —George Kalamaras

In Jill Koren’s aptly titled The Work of the Body are poems of so precisely a human scale that they feel spoken quietly by a friend over coffee.  Or walking at dusk.  Or sitting on the creek’s edge.  And while that friend yearns for understanding, ultimately it submits to mystery. That’s to say, The Work of the Body is a good friend indeed. —Ross Gay


Ode on the Old Madison-Milton Bridge
September 15, 2010 (before demolition)

Stitch of my bone,
vein connecting blue-
grass ancestors to the land
of my birth, hills pulled
together, wood and leaf
fixed by the attraction
of metal. Tall legs

jut from muddy water,
serpentine spine laces, final
pier tempting those who have
sunk like soft brick, unable
(unwilling?) to follow the tenets
of driftwood.

Fingers splayed, iron, to the sheet-
white sky—Bridge—riptooth.
Unsmiling, unsleeping, outstretched
hand beckoning: Come.
Cross over.


Jill Kelly KorenJill Kelly Koren is the author of a chapbook of poetry, While the Water Rises Around Us. Her work has appeared in Kudzu, Literary Mama,The Louisville Review, Public-Republic, and Red Lion Sq., a poetry podcast. In past lives, she has been an Ivy League gymnast and a Teach for America corps member.  She earned an MFA in creative writing at Spalding University. In her current incarnation, she is Assistant Professor of English at Ivy Tech Community College. She lives and works in Madison, Indiana, a river town built and still thriving on a human scale, where she and her husband can both bike to work, even in the winter, and where their two children walk to school.

Additional information

Weight 11 oz
Dimensions 9 × 6 × .25 in