Lori Jakiela’s announcement that she is turning 51 comes in the form of a poem that juxtaposes her birthday announcement with a confession that she is defying her mother by doing so. Her mother, she says, not only lied about her age for years, but taught her not to talk about hers.
Readers of Jakiela’s latest poetry collection, How do you like it now, sir? (BrickHouse Books), will be grateful for your disobedience.
With her new release, Jakiela, Professor and Director of English and Creative/Professional Writing at the University of Pittsburgh-Greensburg, continues the personal narrative she began in her earlier memoir. Miss New York has it all, the bridge to take when things get serious, Y Belief is its own kind of truth, maybe.
Only now, Jakiela has matured from tales of coming of age to tales of coming of age.
In “Love Poem with Naproxen Sodium,” Jakiela compares her new aches and pains to those of her parents, writing:
I limp to the kitchen like my mother and father used to.
When they were alive and only a little
Older than I am now.
“You don’t know how it hurts,” my mother said.
She was referring to arthritis
But I think he also meant living.
Although “Former ’90s Supermodel Cindy Crawford Says People Shouldn’t Worry About Aging” (one of many cleverly titled poems in the book), Jakiela does it they care openly throughout the collection, as she moves from flashbacks of herself as a child fearing her father’s death to witnessing her daughter weeping for hers.
Pages of sustained prose are interrupted by brief, often humorous recollections that feel like secrets from a good friend. After a lengthy ode to the late Pittsburgh writer Chuck Kinder, Jakiela eases the tension with a poignant four-line poem about his son happily eating a salt-and-vinegar potato chip for the first time.
This is a collection for those of us who had aunts with Barbie doll torsos in homemade knit skirts that covered their toilet paper rolls on the backs of toilets, for those of us who grew up watching Daryl Hannah play “a mermaid in a movie once” and, yes, to those with Baby Boomer mothers with high expectations, all that Jakiela shares in her more than 30 poems.
However, at the end of the book, Jakiela reveals in a poem that her mother has finally stopped lying.
“You better look this good when you’re my age,” Jakiela remembers her mother telling her as she slapped “her beautiful polyester butt.” And, in a beautiful transition that sums up the collection’s raw vulnerability, she follows a six-line poem with Jakiela’s daughter telling her that she’s not even “all wrinkled”
When she is, let’s hope that Jakiela will keep writing because we should all be very lucky to be able to keep growing old with her.
Lori Jakiela. lorijakiela.net
Interview on Instagram Live with Lori Jakiela. 3 p.m. Friday, September 2. instagram.com/pghcitypaper
September #CPBookClub Picks:
The intrepid Benjamin Lay Y prophet against slavery
Some 300 years ago, the fight to end the slave trade found a champion in Benjamin Lay, though you’re unlikely to find him in most history books. Read more about this revolutionary figure at The intrepid Benjamin Laythe september Paper of the city of Pittsburgh Book club selection by University of Pittsburgh history professor Marcus Rediker. According to a Beacon Press synopsis, the nonfiction book details how Lay, a practicing Quaker who suffered from dwarfism, became a fierce abolitionist who demanded “the total and unconditional emancipation of all enslaved Africans throughout the world.” For more information, see prophet against slaverya graphic novel that Rediker also worked on.