Against a constellation of solar weather events and an evolving pandemic, Jeannine Hall Gailey’s Flare, Corona paints a self-portrait of the ways that we prevail and persevere through health adversities while facing an uncertain future.
Gailey juxtaposes eclipses and hurricanes with a body's many medical challenges, including neurological symptoms that turn out to be multiple sclerosis, highlighting the miraculous while melding the personal with the political to tell a story of a world and body in crisis. Alongside harbingers of apocalypse, foxes, cherry trees, and supervillains populate the page. Flare, Corona faces calamity head-on, illuminating the power of humor and hope to brave the ever-shifting landscapes of personal and ecological adversity.
Jeannine Hall Gailey's poems are incandescent and tender-hearted, gracefully insistent on teaching us how we can live in a beautiful and perilous world, the ways in which we can brilliantly and stubbornly survive.
Let’s play a game in which no one ever dies,
all serene and ageless—a universe of unicorns, dynamic as glass,
impossible to impassion. After all, angels have no investment
in the living, in the dirty nature of breeding and birth,
in our grubby hands clutching at the soil from beginning to end,
as if to stay a little longer. You remember volunteering
in the Children’s Hospital ward, little faces as sunny and smiling
towards death as they were towards popsicles, or a new set of crayons,
while their parents looked on, afraid and weepy.
And anyway, is there any way really to prepare for that goodbye,
to send your body…elsewhere, to break down quietly? We can choose
to time our sorrow. I believe in today, this apple that isn’t quite ripe yet,
this poem that isn’t finished, a bed rumpled with my husband’s still
sleeping form, my lungs still breathing, my fingers still on this page.
“Who knew the apocalypse could be so fun? Jeannine Hall Gailey, that’s who. Our trenchant speaker, who ‘wrote a nuclear winter poem when I was seven,’ now in mid-life finds herself smack dab in the eye of a perfect storm: a mistaken terminal cancer diagnosis resolves itself into an MS diagnosis accessorized with a coronavirus crown. Yet these poems are deeply life-affirming, filled with foxes and fairytales and fig trees. Flare, Corona is a surprising, skilled, and big-hearted book.”
— Beth Ann Fennelly, author of Heating & Cooling: 52 Micro-Memoirs and Poet Laureate of Mississippi
“Everything really is connected is what I kept thinking as I read Jeannine Hall Gailey’s Flare, Corona. In it, the ecological crisis we face is felt in the marrow of the body, and ‘chronic illness’ becomes a phrase to characterize not only a human condition but our global one. Yet Hall Gailey faces personal and societal illness with characteristic deep feeling and humor, and I was struck by the search for hope and optimism undergirding these inviting, image-rich poems: ‘Look to the future—perhaps that glow you see isn’t fire, but sunrise.’”
— Dana Levin, author of Now You Do Know Where You Are
“The milieu of Flare, Corona, is at once literal and metaphorical: what blooms in the water and soil of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, ultimately blooms in the bodies of those who grew up there. This collection effortlessly toggles between what feels endangered in the macro-political scale of contemporary American society, and in the micro-medical reality of our speaker: ‘My first flare came on the week of the solar eclipse / when the shadow fell cold over us, and the birds stopped singing.’ What’s astonishing about this collection is how the poet showcases her trademark dark humor and vivid hyperbole—all the while pulling the reader in close to consider, frankly and with earned insight, the experience of chronic illness. Crafty uses of parallel structure and self-portraiture elevate personal narratives into poems that will outlive any apocalypse. This is an immersive, terrific read.”
— Sandra Beasley, author of Made to Explode
“We all have bodies that we know will fail on us, and we live in a world we know is riven by troubles. But how few of us really reckon with the body’s—and the body politic’s—failures until disaster strikes—for us or for a loved one. Flare, Corona is full of these dark facts, as Jeannine Hall Gailey grapples with her own illness and with an America, maybe a world, that seems to be falling apart. Yet in poem after full, fast, lush poem, Gailey keeps turning disaster into light, not at all to falsify the very real darkness, but to turn ethical, engaged attention to what is. This book is full of a life insisting on its own richness, carried out in spite of what can’t be avoided.”
— Daisy Fried, author of The Year the City Emptied
Publication Date: 05/09/23