Jamaica Baldwin

Jamaica Baldwin

Jamaica (she/her) is a poet and educator. Her first book, Bone Language, was published by YesYes Books in June 2023. Her work has appeared in Guernica, World Literature Today, Ploughshares, Prairie Schooner and more. She is the recipient of multiple awards including a 2023 Pushcart Prize and is currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of Writing at Ithaca College in New York.

2024 Jack Straw Alumni Poetry Series:

Jamaica Baldwin’s poetry debut, Bone Language, is a testament to the specific ways women survive the world and its attacks on their bodies. At the core of this poet’s survival is an engagement with a mother/daughter relationship that lives within the shadows of addiction-a love letter to mothers as they are, not as the world has asked them to be. With precision and vulnerability, Baldwin’s lyric “I,” signifies her body and its history as it reckons with loss, misogyny, racism, and desire. “I kept answering/your drowned voice with my own, / kept singing along /to our borrowed honey, / kept words, / the dead of women quick / with longing.”

The End of Sorrow Is Not Happiness

I’ve gained many things since cancer: poetry, extra
weight, a distrust of happiness—the way this country
names it a pursuit, a destination most are never meant
to reach no matter how many shovels we break digging
there is always more earth, more history, more heft
required to fail. Even if I could make my way through
their labyrinth of promises without coming undone
I’m not sure I’d want to give up my sorrows, all my
reckless patients wandering through untamed hallways.
I’ve grown accustomed to their defiance, to the melancholy
of women unbolting private alienations. I prefer this
fracture of a home we’ve built together without borders,
without hustle. And the birds pay us no mind here,
nor the trees, nor moss. So much endless brilliant moss.

2017 Writers Program

Sound Clips
  • Rage - Jamaica Baldwin