Review of You Look Young Enough to Be Relevant by Jennifer Hill
Close your eyes. Really—I mean, really close your eyes for a minute.Think of one of the first pieces of your life that resonated wonder, wrap it up in your hands, hold it for a minute, and then put it in your pocket. Let this memory find the folds of your jeans, sneak into the threading, and the ink of the receipt from the grocery store, make a home there while you read this at your desk job/drinking your coffee black/hesitating to take the dog out for a walk because hell is it cold outside/taking a break from devising dinner plans/putting off paying a bill. Let that memory soften like Saturday does into Sunday.
Jennifer Hill’s most recent book of poetry, You Look Young Enough To Be Relevant, published in 2016 by Acts of Jennius, is the memory in your pocket right now. A group of 49 separate pieces that find and weave together the different threads of life to create a well worn blanket of poems, remembrances, meditations, dreams, and reminders to hold dear all things which cannot be captured by Instagram pictures and social media updates. I came to this book at, what seems to be, the perfect time of year. The leaves have left the trees in my backyard, and the light moves quickly through the afternoons into evenings. This is the season of quiet, of looking inward, of gentle nods to what has brought us this far, and YLYETBR is a celebration of it all, even of the parts of life that leave us with more questions than answers.
Simultaneously whimsical in its musings and gravitationally weighty in its reflections, YLYETBR walks a graceful balance in poems like “This Title Needs You To Read It As A Title” in which Hill plays with poetic form and punctuation, while drawing attention to the importance of the reader. She reminds us to bring our whole self to what we experience both in poetry and in life, and gently turns our attention to time and our physical, bodily place within it—a recurring theme throughout the book.
One of my favorite poems from this collection, “The UnGoogleable World,” both asks us to examine our interactions with technology and begs the recall of the small moments in life that have formed us. Hill conjures with such affection the split seconds we often see fade but hold most dear in a specific moment. Her lines saunter from—“The peachy beer scent of the shag rug in your first apartment” to “Stories from the dying shared with you from the beds at home, or in the /
nursing home with the pastel artwork of empty chairs”—effortlessly calling readers back to conjure up specific places and times in their own lives.
Many of the pieces harken back to childhood and the ways in which the whole world seemed to be concurrently simple and full of magic, with poems like “Old Maid,” and “Wonder Twin Powers Activate.” The most alluring part about this collection is the way in which Hill ties together that childhood innocence with the precious responsibilities and realizations that come with adulthood, as she does in “Orion”—a poem that immediately transports its reader to a childlike, wide-eyed reverence for the night sky. Lighthearted in her re-naming of the constellations, the poet calls us to remember this playfulness as she takes on one of life’s more jolting experiences: the loss of a loved one. The beauty and feeling of this piece shines as do stars in the dark. The poem’s harmony between sadness and delight reveals much in the ways that we journey through our days.
Throughout all of the poetic somersaults, cartwheels, daydreams, and tightrope walks Jennifer Hill invites her readers to take part in, You Look Young Enough To Be Relevant artfully straddles the line, in pointed ballet slippers, between whimsy and depth. Each poem touches upon what it means to be uniquely ourselves and assures us that, no matter our age, or stage, or occupation, or marital status, or bank account, we exist and belong. We have memories in our pockets that will warm our hands when the days become more dark than light. And, we carry wonder with us.