“When All Else Failed” by Jennifer GoldringBuy the Poem
Jennifer Goldring, originally from Arizona, is a writer and photographer based in St. Louis. She holds a BA Degree in economics. Despite her training she has given up on solving the world’s economic problems and now writes poetry, which she finds to be a much more meaningful endeavor. Her poetry can be found in Tar River Poetry, and her photography can be found at www.junipertreestudio.com.
The images in this poem are all grounded in the familiar wish to fly away to a simpler life, to assume an animal form where (we imagine) finding food would be our only concern. But the poet also uses her images to explore what lies beneath those wishes: not so much a need for escape or simplicity as the desire for agency and connection in a world “slippery with life and slippery/ with death.” The speaker swoops and dips, pins and rips, pecks and screeches, all of it self-directed, visceral, requiring a body. When at the last her raptor leaps back into the air, it’s a communion with the wind that carries her. She is renewed.
Taking on a new form means leaving an old one behind. The words of the title especially read like the start of an epitaph, something written in stone to commemorate a person’s passage from one form to another. The typeface for the body needed to have a solid, block-like presence on the page and the kind of strong vertical stroke that survives weathering. Optimus Princeps is only available in small capitals, each letterform its own block, stacked and joined like precision-hewed stone. Echelon has more variance between thick and thin strokes, more curvature, but conveys a similar strength.