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Taking to Water

Jennifer Conlon's debut poetry collection, winner of the 2022 Autumn House Poetry Prize, selected by Carl Phillips
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Jennifer Conlon

Jennifer Conlon is from North Carolina and earned their MFA in poetry from Arizona State University. They were awarded the 2015 Aleida Rodriguez Memorial Award in Creative Writing and the 2017 Katharine C. Turner Prize from the Academy of American Poets. More recently, Jennifer won the 2021 Boulevard Poetry Contest for Emerging Poets. Their poems have been published by Bayou Magazine, Juked, Bennington Review, DIALOGIST, Threadcount, and elsewhere. Jennifer lives in Tempe, Arizona, where they teach at Arizona State University. Taking to Water is their first book.


"The flathead fish—whose sex can be difficult to determine until maturity, which can take years—is a recurring image in Taking to Water. Jennifer Conlon juxtaposes this with human society’s insistence on assigning sex (and gender, accordingly) to children at birth, as the poems in this arresting book argue for an alternative. . . . The urgency here is as much about sex and gender as about the trauma, violence, and violation that, by ignoring them, society (parents, teachers, the church) condones, depending on the assumptions made about a person’s sex and gender. In poems of masterful precision and relentless interrogation past the surface of identity into identity’s beautiful complexity, Conlon asks “What does it mean to control your own body to con-/tort your own sweetness.” “My gender,” they argue, “is a war between layers,” going on to say that if rainbow means a spectrum of color, gender is a “dispersion of a body/of light.” Taking to Water is a startling, necessary collection; what Conlon says about gender’s spectrum can also be said for this book: “it will move across you do not be afraid.”

Carl Phillips,

author of Then the War: And Selected Poems


Collateral Journal: three poems (Issue 1.1)

Bennington Review: "Five Years Post-Deployment"

Blue Earth Review: three poems

Meridian: "When the Sea is Reaching" (Issue 39)

Academy of American Poets: "The Correctional Center's First Pool Baptism" (winner of the 2017 Katherine C. Turner Prize)

Heavy Feather Review: two poems

Consequence Forum: "On Receiving War Stories From My Brother"

Poetry South: "In The Wild" (pdf)

Another Chicago Magazine: four poems

Dialogist: "An Animal Growing"

Threadcount Magazine: "Taking to Water"

Ocean State Review: "Choose a Password: Childhood Nickname" (pdf)

Juked: two poems

Bayou Magazine: "You're Not Leaving the House Like That"

AZ Central Poetry Spot: "Teeth of Our House"

Hayden's Ferry Review: "Trigger a Memory, or Out of the Blue"

Boulevard: three poems (winner of 2021 the Boulevard Emerging Poets Contest)

My Books
  • December 7, 2023: reading and workshop at Firestorm Books in Asheville, NC

  • December 10, 2023: reading with Lex Orgera and Emilia Phillips at Scuppernong Books in Greensboro, NC

  • February 8, 2024: AWP reading and panel, "Queer As In: A Reading of Debut Trans and Nonbinary Poets," with Tennison Black, Sebastian Merrill, and jason b. crawford in Kansas City, MO

  • February 8, 2024: AWP Offsite reading with Autumn House, Four Way, Pitt Press, and Burrow Press at Torn Label Brewery in Kansas City, MO, 6pm

  • March 19, 2024: A Room of One's Own virtual reading with Tennison Black

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