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Available here at Small Press Distribution.

Jenny Drai’s The History Worker examines the author’s experience as the descendent of Romanian and German immigrants and leads the reader on a journey that begins with (and coalesces around) a visit to Hearst Castle, built on what was once native Chumash land. This journey also takes turns through Drai’s childhood as she comes to map out and identify perhaps one of the most damning collisions between US history and the immigrant experience: namely that it is impossible to ‘discover’ a body of land that is already populated. Sometimes pointed, sometimes dreamy, The History Worker charts out and examines the influences on one individual’s imagination. The author remembers elementary school history lessons and early years spent paging through Will and Ariel Durant’s popular history opus The Story of Civilization.She considers the influences of, as an adult, watching Deadwood (with its own Hearst tie-in) and engaging with Wolfram von Eschenbach’s Parzival. Drai explores how what has been absorbed by imagination can correspond to and encourage necessary questioning of the often incomplete record of US history. Grounded in a child’s curiosity, The History Worker invites the reader to both “be your own damnation” and to “restore ‘personally’ the manifestations of memory and of history.”

Praise for The History Worker:

Anyone with a history should read Jenny Drai’s The History Worker. This book takes you from the lapidary Hearst Castle extravagance of California’s Central Coast through America to the wilds of Romania and other European outposts. Several journeys, a commentary and much history occur in a broken yet flowing text of details, discoveries and imprecations. We are caught up in Drai’s expeditions and implicated by her discoveries. The History Worker is “a sweet and voyeuristic pickle/marathon of wick-light” in the best, most dazzling sense.

—Laura Moriarty

Jenny Drai's History Worker works— hard. This book does the work of historical thinking & play. It opens with a "frame" for the reader, creating a structure of reference that includes George Hearst, Richard III, Deadwood, Vikings, magpies & more. "The artifact, this mind, pushes through," Drai writes. The poems use space & caesura, sound & echo, & the fragments of history to make "a house carved out about your inquiry." What are the layers of history— & how they overlap, lapping each other— making rhymes in history in readers' minds? What is the work of history? It is in the work of this writing— the work of inquiry, the work of "a person, within history," the work of documentation & notation, the work of "a multiplicity of reference." I love this book. I love how it revisits the history we are drawn to as children— "your life collects in what heart you choose" — how we turn & return to that history as adults to read a new text through it like a palimpsest made by our own reading & writing lives. 

—Pattie McCarthy




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Available here from Small Press Distribution.

Praise for Wine Dark:

Wine Dark is an ethereal book where the idea of language, the theory of story becomes one with the knowledge of the self, a self burrowing, digging, trying to find a home, a place of residency under the grass in the great cemetery of words. Jenny Drai has found that out beyond all the words lies the body of language, and having come back, somehow is able to show us what it is to live, how it is we inhabit an alphabet.

—Carl Adamshick

In Wine Dark, Drai launches the reader into a language of scents, tastes, and colors that is as seductive as it is ominous. A sense of danger, of unreality or the sudden slap of reality, lurks around every corner. Like Scheherezade, Drai is telling stories to save her life, narrating the world around her as an American in Germany in order to understand it. Just as Virgil leads Dante, Scheherezade serves as Drai's guide in the psychological underworld of this collection, interrogating the nature of truth, the truth of storytelling, and the multiple truths of stories of the self. The pervasive presence of immigration and the dark liquids of wine, blood, and the sea contrasts with concrete references to tragedy, injustice, and the deaths of innocents from the Holocaust to Bosnia and Trayvon Martin. With the deft use of anaphora, internal and slant rhyme, and short lines that make effective use of elision, Drai is a powerful voice singing a subtle, sensitive music.

—Wendy Chin-Tanner





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Available here from Small Press Distribution.

Praise for [ the door ]:

Open [ THE DOOR ] to stanzas of dream and enchantment, to chambers of magnetic fields, to the mezzanine of spellbinding diction, to the balcony of this passion play. And 'how do I wish / to approach autobiography?' asks the poem quietly, thunderously. Like the journal in time and the Märchen, like Klee's Angelus Novus, [ THE DOOR ] melds archaic time with contemporary measure, blending with delicate accomplished lines 'the goddess of cereals,' 'the fate of the hive,' and 'the Keystone pipeline.' Open [ THE DOOR ] anywhere and swoon!

—Norma Cole

Jenny Drai's [ THE DOOR ], like a medieval tapestry, is vivid with color, suggests scene and story, and yet—with the tensile elasticity of textile—warps and shifts the reader's attention in startling ways. As Drai writes, 'again, again, I discover a new route.' This book weaves word and idea, transforming the fabric of language into the skin of the poem. This is no mere poetry collection; [ THE DOOR ] commands our full humanity—domestic, transcendent, witty, insistent:

'really it's about learning to live with one's feet on the ground : while beating one's bright wings / to keep the room warm'

—Elizabeth Robinson

Flashing with intelligence and urgency, [ THE DOOR ] opens to glimpses of bees' exoskeleton frailty, the frailty of our interlaced psychological/social narratives, our own frailties, and what can be broken and remade in the 'arterial life' of experience. Buzzing with unexpected turns and junctures, Drai's athletically agile language excavates fissures in our intricate collective hive, a 'bed of uncertainty and universe' where new openings are threaded. Readers are immersed in layers and layers of iridescence and injury, governing texts, recoded fairytale, etymologies, and fleet lucid perceptions that form our fabled wing- soft beings. Identity and history are convincingly unstill in this transfixing collection.

—Endi Bogue Hartigan


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Available here from Small Press Distribution.

Praise for The New Sorrow Is Less Than the Old Sorrow:

Jenny Drai’s The New Sorrow Is Less Than the Old Sorrow is magic. Here the sources of the self (the selves) and the sources of love (loves) open and sing and challenge themselves. This poet renews rituals, this poet renews language.

—Joseph Lease

Jenny Drai’s work asks that the reader ‘throw water against your heart as if that dragnet of emotions were a cliff. then master it.’ Reading these poems is the experience of puzzling with, even throwing oneself against, glass. Each shard is ripe with danger, and yet a whole picture will emerge, deftly and with booming imagination, if you choose to engage with the elements of this language. What I love most about Jenny Drai’s work is her faster-than-light, almost synesthetic switches. Poems that seem to be telling a love story are in fact heralding in a new color of visible light. And, of course, this teaches us what love really is.

—Emily Kendal Frey

Jenny Drai’s The New Sorrow… is one of those vibrating works that somehow find electrical current to the light bulbs in your memory that have long lost their incandescence. The warmth from those burning pears can warm the dark forgotten corners of your past, but they can also bathe old haunts with cold remembrances. They can even startle you and make you laugh out loud at your own surprise.

I’ve never read a book of poetry that has so closely resonated with me, and I’ve never been more convinced that there is a Werther and an old Goethe in us all.

—Jack Morgan