The Second Perfect Number
Joanna Solfrian refers to her partner as “beloved” and her kids as “kids” in her newest collection, The Second Perfect Number. As she states in the epigraph to her crushing collection, “’the Pythagoreans (founded c. 525 BCE) studied perfect numbers for their “mystical” properties.’” I did not know what a perfect number was before I read Solfrian’s collection. While immersed in these poems I kept asking, “If there is a first perfect number then what is the second perfect number?” Halfway through her poem “The Reflexive Property” she writes, “Your solitude is my solitude,” and I found the answer: it’s these poems. These poems are the second perfect number because of their ‘mystical properties.’ What does this mean? It means that she has studied, as the Pythagoreans did numbers, the human heart. Not just studied, but clearly, has been so inside of its working that she has found a way to make of its beatings, a perfectly beautiful way to express the terrain of family, love, and city. There is a perfection in her tone, in the grounded modality of her musings, that elevates some kind of human experience into exaltation. Damn it, these poems are the heart burst wide open into an elasticity that, I can only guess, her “beloved” has known. That her “kids” know. And now, we too, get to know—perfectly Solfrian.
– Matthew Lippman
The Mud Room
"Only those who do not share their wine have enemies. / I have extra wine; no one is plotting my death but I”— that’s Jo Solfrian in The Mud Room, channeling the Sufi masters in a voice that’s hers alone. Solfrian’s new book is achingly alive—you’ll find David Ortiz, the jumbies, the couple with the Navy’s first same-sex kiss—and the stakes are intimate, visceral. Solfrian’s work is charged with immediacy. Every poem has the zing and edge of a buzzer shot or a spiritual practice; each line wants to transform the page, the reader, the speaker. Solfrian can follow a thread of sorrow until we emerge in ecstasy—or at least, ecstatic sorrow. Martin Buber speaks of reversal: the moment when your faith, instead of corroborating your aims, leads you to a world that’s the opposite of your expectations. That’s where Solfrian’s art lives. It’s poetry that makes everything happen.
- D. Nurkse
ISBN 13: 978-1606350669
There are poems which carry us clean away, transporting us into worlds as specific as the pink purse the author of Visible Heavens helps a little boy buy for his teacher, Miss Stone. Melancholy and loss, the missing of a gone mother, passion and solitude -- stirringly well mixed in one potent brew of a book. Readers will feel at home here, but they'll also feel ignited with new presences, keenly visible and invisible perceptions -- "It is a gift, this light we carry in our lungs. . . ."
Cheers to Joanna Solfrian for a fine first book, the stunning deep breath of her voice.
- Naomi Shihab Nye
Visible Heavens is a 'measure of wonder' where the unadorned materials of language and life, of frailty, music, and mortality, propose to us profound beauties. Stitched with the silver thread of longing through hauntings and meditative clarities, Joanna Solfrian's poems are bracingly restrained, nimble and vivid, informed by earth, lifted by sky.
- Dean Young
The exactitude of emotion that courses through these poems is quietly breathtaking. Continually and without fuss, Joanna Solfrian finds metaphors that go to the heart of many perplexed matters. These talents speak for her ability not only to express what is forgotten or merely ignored but what seeks the special grace of language. The experience is haunting; the poems are sturdy.
- Baron Wormser