CHESTERTOWN, MD—As a part of the English Department’s “Living Writers” course, poet Jill Alexander Essbaum will read from her collections at the Rose O’Neill Literary House on Thursday, October 27. The reading, which begins at 4:30, is sponsored by the Sophie Kerr Committee.
Billed on her website as “Christian and erotic poetry,” Essbaum’s writing combines unique and unexpected elements, including sex and divinity, with wordplay. Critic G.M. Palmer has said no other poet today “dares play with such spiritual fire … Her poems skirt on the edge of blasphemy and pray for re-readings.”
Of her own work, Essbaum says, “I write a lot of awfully laudatory verses praising many things that religion tends to traditionally condemn. It isn’t lost on me that I’m writing about acts that just a few centuries ago might have got me hanged. But we don’t live in a regime where our poems can land us in the same hot waters as other poets from different lands or from other eras do or did.”
Essbaum’s poems have appeared in national journals, including Poetry, Image, and The Christian Century, and her debut collection, Heaven, won the 1999 Bakeless Prize, an annual book series competition for burgeoning authors. She has since published two additional collections, Harlot (2007) and Necropolis (2008). She teaches at the University of California, Riverside.