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TJ Jarrett


Paperback (Other formats: E-book)
88 pages, 6 x 9

Crab Orchard Series in Poetry


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About the Book

Zion, the latest collection of poems by TJ Jarrett, is the poignant study of the resonating effects of the civil rights movement on one family. Jarrett lovingly explores the minutiae of mortality and race across three generations of “Dark Girls” who have come together one summer to grieve and to remember as one of them passes to the farther shore—a place beyond retribution, where there is only forgiveness. 

 The Mississippi of Jarrett’s collection is alive with fireflies and locusts and murders of crows; yet for some, it is a wasteland of unanswered prayers, burning evenings, and the shades of dead or disappeared loved ones. There, the dark nights of the soul weigh long and heavy, and “every heart has its solstice, and its ache is unrelenting.”

Yet much as every solstice has an equinox, every time to kill has a time to forgive. Throughout the volume, the author imagines opportunities for compassion on multiple levels, from sweeping pardons to the most intimate of mercies. Jarrett’s faceless narrator confesses the past through conversation and exploration with notorious Mississippi governor Theodore Bilbo: two minds, two hearts, two races at last face to face.

At once brutal and achingly tender, Jarrett’s volume itself is a vibrant and musical body, singing to all its parts.


TJ Jarrett is a senior editor of Tupelo Quarterly and a business intelligence consultant for HealthTrust in Brentwood, Tennessee. She is the author of one volume of poetry, Ain’t No Grave, and has published poems in a number of journals, including Poetry, Boston Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, Ninth Letter, Third Coast, VQR, and West Branch.


“In Zion, TJ Jarrett maps a new language for reconciling racial and cultural tensions that few poets would have the courage to approach, much less subvert and transform into a conversation of equals. She has a compelling story, she has the ear to make the language sing, the alertness to metaphor to make it interesting, and the drama to make it stick. Just as significant, she brings a tone that neutralizes all acids. In humanizing the often demonized Mississippi white supremacist politician Theodore Bilbo, she facilitates an unforgettable dialogue of generation, of gender, of race. Zion is a work of high art and difficult forgiveness, and TJ Jarrett is a name that we should remember.”—Rodney Jones, author of Imaginary Logic

“One simply must relish the superb light and a captured sense of darkness as avenues of lyric survival, the exemplary wealth of both human suffering and wise knowing in these poems that make reading Zion as much a warding off of spirits as it is a celebration of language and remembrance.”—Major Jackson, author of Holding Company

“TJ Jarrett’s Zion is a fearless, gorgeous, and necessary book. With personas that shift from the self, to the dead, to the proudly racist former governor of Mississippi, Theodore Bilbo, these lyric investigations take on a familial and regional legacy and wait for the reckoning to come. Jarrett’s poems are both an act of remembrance and a search for forgiveness, that place where ‘the world comes all at once like the Red Sea regaining its contours after miracle.’ Even though the dead are everywhere and the body is called animal, called waiting room, called to the flooding river, this book gives me hope that there’s still mercy to be had. It may be all we have left to give each other.”—Traci Brimhall, author of Our Lady of the Ruins