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Eveningful: Poems

ISBN: 9781736483541
Binding: Paperback
Author: Jennifer Whalen
Pages: 104
Trim: 7.5 x 9 inches
Published: 05/01/2024

Eveningful is interested in thresholds: the sky-smear between night and day, the rift between the speaker's interior mind and the outward world. While evening's movement from day to night is fluid and natural, the speaker finds the act of blending the self with the world—its people, its landscapes, its incidental moments—requires much more deliberate effort. These poems follow the speaker through observations and experiences, often occurring during nighttime, as she navigates two parallel desires: to be seen and understood and also the desire to see more clearly.

These desires reveal their complexities. How do we cross the threshold from aloneness to connection? To that end, these poems are concerned with the process of depicting the mind's interior. Each poem is grounded in the mental (and emotional) processes of contemplation and description, exploring the anxieties and realities that make vulnerability difficult for young women. Like turning a ceramic in our hands to ensure all its angles and details are known, the speaker presents various deliberations on connection and solitude, both their dangers and allures. Through this scrutiny and assemblage, Eveningful shows how a self can construct strength and how that strength can bridge thresholds as we work to know and be known.

While capturing the movements of a single mind, another layer of these poems is that they often reveal themselves as poems: as constructed vessels of experience where the speaker can turn to another, the reader, and perhaps find understanding. Throughout the collection, the speaker shapes and defines the lyric space to explore disclosure and understanding on her own terms. In this way, Eveningful invites the reader's active participation in a very human rhythm: opening ourselves up to another's vulnerability. A process we're lucky to move through again and again—like day melding into night.


Jennifer Whalen (she/her) is a poet and educator from the Northern Kentucky/Cincinnati, Ohio area. Her poems can be found in Gulf Coast, Denver Quarterly, Southern Indiana Review, New South, Bodega, The Boiler, Grist, & elsewhere. She received her B.A. from Northern Kentucky University where she studied writing, literature, and film studies. She received her M.F.A. from Texas State University where upon graduation she served as writer-in-residence at the university's Clark House (2015-2016). She currently teaches English at the University of Illinois Springfield. Eveningful is her first book.


"Poised between Eliot's love song and Myles's snapshot, Whalen's poems have an aching passion. Like the whip-poor-will and balloons of the morning after, they keep dazzling me back into an alertness towards my own intimate life. Eveningful is about elation and sorrow and the way they can happen almost at the same time, together. The poems are about an avid delight, yes: 'Like sleeping / in someone's favorite sweater, waking up / with its fine threads in my mouth.' And also yes: 'Sometimes the rain / has to start, then stop. Your life will be full / of something; that will have to be enough.' Among the poems in Eveningful are three titled 'It's Seven,' 'It's Nine,' and 'It's Twelve.' Which is to say, the evening is always getting later and deeper, like the heart or like adulthood, arriving at the other side of the night as always: 'I wanted morning to be bright: a few puddles the sun hadn't scorched out, grass greener, vines vinier, the day swollen with plump & me, necessary form among forms: the rivulets of a skirt made more lovely with wind's wavering. But it was just morning. Long dry clear singing morning.'" - Rick Barot

"Eveningful is lush with earfuls and eyefuls, with arrangements of bodies social and intimate in a world Jennifer Whalen navigates with her understanding that attention is most interesting when one's body is not easily defined. Her assertive, directive, sometimes funny voice rallies asstrongly with need as with claim staking. Nothing happens gradually here; splitting what stands from what it stands for makes for a poetic most trusting of immediacy, with a voice that cannot, like things can, drift and waft, but it can, in quick time, wholly 'visualize/the world through bits/of paper:…'. The teensy, the sip, the flash have great power here. Whalen's precise lines make longing palpable with 'dying candles', or 'a single down feather' and bring dance back to 'polka dots'. Here, mutually, 'a breeze is fervor', and a 'blow dryer' have significance. Eveningful has arrived to show us how 'a body can be a fastened/clasp-latch thing'. These poems are wonderfully bright, serious, and sexy like nobody else's." - Kathleen Peirce

"In Eveningful, Jennifer Whalen sets out the world as an array of possibilities, any one of which might suddenly light up with need of urgent consideration. Love is frequent among them, as well as how love does and does not transform a day (or night's) various arrangements. Reading these poems feels a bit like falling in love, in fact, as if the ground has given way and yet everything it had supported still hovers in place, glimmering with strange particulars that permit us—at last!—to perceive them for the first time." - Heather Christie