Listening for Earthquakes

Jasmine Dreame Wagner


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Read a 32-page excerpt (PDF)

“In Listening for Earthquakes, Jasmine Dreame Wagner reveals how ‘terse, unrehearsed’ tunes of phrase turn one’s ear. Wagner’s ear trumpet is attuned to sites of aftermath and decay—the Greenpoint Terminal Market, the V.I. Lenin Palace of Culture and Sport, and the Champion Mill—if not to amplify decomposition, then as observing mechanism, transmitting a palimpsest / transmuting an impasse. Aglow amid the natural world, the remains spring memory, spin mnemonics as recyclic gestures where ‘ruin is naught and knot and ø.’”

E. Tracy Grinell, author of Helen: A Fugue

Listening for Earthquakes establishes its own unexpectable fault line in the body of poetry. With verbal fire and range, these poems move easily between the sensual and abstract planes: ‘its loose, fluted memory / fluttering like a receipt / in the incision.’ The incision is mind; the instrument is language. Within the provisional play of words, the depth note of the eternal emerges: ‘all that has suffered is suffering now’; a ‘green vireo born with one bent wing.’ All is at once timeless, sad, and to be celebrated.”

Paul Hoover, author of Desolation: Souvenir

Listening for Earthquakes does listen—hard. It also watches, sniffs, tastes, and touches. The result is a series of extended love songs to the natural world, human products, and human-ruined landscapes. It has been a long time since I’ve read a book that takes such delight in the small, perfect image, and thinks about it with such measured yet delirious method. Endlessly inventive, dizzyingly luscious—these are the descriptions that come to mind. You’ll want to spend time with and in this book.”

Kathleen Ossip, author of The Cold War

“Lush, wise, wary, Jasmine Dreame Wagner’s Listening for Earthquakes dwells on the grain of spirit to be found at the bottom of every letter. ‘I invest in a structure an ability to consider me in return’: Wagner’s skeptical romanticism invests in a theory of the image coming to self-consciousness, asking, ‘who will sing the songs // of immanent objects?’ She do, she will, in different voices unfolding bleakly beautiful landscapes as the book progresses toward its rough apotheosis: ‘to describe dance / as curve of pursuit.’”

Joshua Corey, author of Severance Songs

Listening for Earthquakes was the runner-up manuscript in the 2011 Caketrain Chapbook Competition, as judged by Rosmarie Waldrop.

About the Author

Jasmine Dreame Wagner currently lives in Connecticut where she teaches creative writing at Western Connecticut State University and makes folk and experimental pop music as Cabinet of Natural Curiosities. You can learn more about her art, music, and writing on her website,


Cover image “Drift Ice (Bering Sea near Saint Lawrence Island, Alaska)” © 2012 Dana Maiden. Used by permission. Many thanks to the editors and staff of Action Yes, American Letters & Commentary, Aufgabe, Handsome, Humble Humdrum Cotton Frock, New American Writing, Seattle Review, Verse, and Young Sun Press for sharing these poems in their original forms and for allowing their reprint with grateful acknowledgment. Text © 2012 Jasmine Dreame Wagner.