Ways We Hold by Jennifer Arin


“Brilliant and resonant, one illumination following another, Ways We Hold delivers on its promises because for Arin, poetry “is one / small way we hold on.” You will want to hold onto this book, like a lost friend rediscovered.” —Elizabeth Frost


  • Kind: Perfect
  • Pages: 76
  • Language: English
  • Published: April, 2012
  • ISBN: 978-1-933675-71-8


How do we stay rooted in a world of flux? “Oh, to keep ourselves / from falling,” Jennifer Arin exclaims, and here is a poet who understands and celebrates the complexity of this impossible wish. Meditating on ancient languages and cityscapes, flow charts and romance, Arin brings an awareness of time’s ineluctable passage and poetry’s power to stop it, however briefly. Brilliant and resonant, one illumination following another, Ways We Hold delivers on its promises because for Arin, poetry “is one / small way we hold on.” You will want to hold onto this book, like a lost friend rediscovered. —Elisabeth Frost

“Nothing comes without a history,” Jennifer Arin reminds us in “A Portion,” her penultimate poem from this extraordinary collection. Deftly moving between the playful and the lyrical, the serious and the subversive, Arin parses the etymology of phrases from Aztec kings, affectionately refers to time as “an escape artist anyway,” and fearlessly explores the tragic accident that befell a beloved mentor “riding / the unplanned / curve.” With sparkling wit and clarity that provokes and seduces her lucky readers, Arin’s poetry celebrates the quirky coincidences of our shared humanity, the tenderness that ultimately connects us in the Ways We Hold. —Mary Winegarden 

In Ways We Hold, Jennifer Arin takes the long view – from prehuman history to pumpkins in the state of Delaware, from a Sumerian scribe to her own Russian-Jewish grandparents. Confronting time, death, and chaos, she finds solace in human connection, the “way[s] we hold on, or try to.” Her thoughtfully-shaped poems, “planting word rows / across the page,” reveal a lively curiosity, a wry sense of humor and a levelheaded understanding of the human condition. —Chana Bloch


Ways We Hold

Strange how hands can
lose their touch: unopened
jars, inexplicably split
fingernails, and casualties
from cutting bagels the wrong
way, one hand underneath
as the other slices ignobly towards it.
But I remember a better
dexterity: girls conversing
while their hands fly and fix
each other’s hair; brothers playing
Heart and Soul, four hands
on a shared keyboard. All those
hands, and how they hold!
Not the nervous fellow
wringing his own, of course,
but generous hands, yours,
their round touch on each
page, and then that moment
when we rest, intertwined,
hearts pulsing even in the thumbs.


Jennifer Arin was born and raised in New York, lived for four years in France, and now lives in California, where she earned degrees from U.C. Berkeley, San Francisco State University, and Mills College. Her poetry and creative nonfiction have been published in both the U.S. and Europe, including in The AWP Writer’s Chronicle, Virgin Atlantic Magazine, The San Francisco Chronicle, Gastronomica, Puerto del Sol, Poet Lore, ZYZZYVA, Lucero, and The Chronicle of Higher Education, among many others. She also has done poetry segments for the television programs Henry’s Garden and KRON 4 Weekend Morning News (KRON-TV, San Francisco). Her numerous awards include a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, a PEN Writer’s Fund grant, Poets & Writers’ Writers-On-Site residency, a Say the Word National Poetry Competition Prize, a Robert Browning award, three Prix Poésie de Paris Ouest, a Solas Culture and Ideas award, and funding from the Spanish Ministry of Culture for collaborative research for, and editing of, a book about Spain’s Civil War. She teaches in the English Department at San Francisco State University, and is writing a book of essays about her sojourns in Europe.

Additional information

Weight 7 oz
Dimensions 9 × 6 × .25 in