Jena’s new collection of poems caps off a year of darkness with these words: “The sun’s up there somewhere.” This book is equal parts invitation, prayer, protest, and love song to the pain and beauty of humanity and everyday life.
“[These poems] sing a kind of blues laced with threads of hope.” — Sue Ann Gleason, creator of the Well-Nourished Woman initiative
A memoir through poems written over the course of fifteen years, tracing one woman’s fierce journey through marriage, motherhood, and coming out–when she risked everything she knew in order to claim what she had denied for so long: herself.
“A travelogue across love’s mysteries and longings. Sensual, romantic, insistent. Jena traces the epic battle in the heart’s final surrender to freedom.” – Karen Maezen Miller, Zen Priest & Author of Momma Zen and Paradise in Plain Sight
“Don’t Miss This is a memoir. A memoir in poems. A memoir about love found, about love let go, about love on your lap, about love that is right in front of you. It’s about life – and the journey of waking up and rising up and claiming it as your own.” – Marybeth Bonfligio, from our interview in the Spring 2013 issue of Amulet Magazine
Blending poetry and prose, the personal and political, and the ordinary with a 30,000-foot view, this is the story of what happens over the course of a year, after life falls apart and reconfigures again. For anyone who has ever wished love could be easy.
“This collection reminds me to see, to stop, to flow, to go easy — and yet at the same time most of these pieces are so intensely personal that they add up to a self-portrait. Jena trusts us, her readers, to receive the gift of a life shared, these singular intimacies and passions of an ever-shifting, challenging, beautiful life. Somehow she really does manage to be intimate and universal at once.” – Katrina Kenison, author of Magical Journey
In a voice that is at times harsh with tears, at others soft with wonder, Strong tells us a story and we, from the first page, are compelled to keep turning pages until we reach the very last. — Story Circle Book Reviews, “The Inside of Out” | Read More
She reminds me that we’re all poets. — Karen Maezen Miller, “With No Help From Me” | Read More
Her work is as confident, brazen even, in its universal vision and embrace as anything by Walt Whitman. — Eva Yaa Asantewaa, “Don’t Miss Jena Strong” | Read More
You will exhale with relief, facing head on both the beauty and the heartache of a life lived out loud. — Mani Canaday, “Open Eyes, Open Heart, Open Mind” | Read More
Jena’s words on the page contain her warmth, her grace, her fearlessness. Her writing is mesmerizing and sharp, taut and fluid. — Pamela Hunt, “Don’t Miss This: A Review & Giveaway” | Read More
Jena speaks lyrically of what I would describe as midlife’s central task: letting go of what we thought it was going to be so that we can embrace how it is. — Lindsey Mead, “Don’t Miss This” | Read More
Take a chair outside, put your feet up, read a book that gives you back to yourself. Don’t miss this. | Katrina Kenison
These poems, like fresh cut flowers with all of their verve and subtle beauties, remind us again and again that art’s highest vocation is in “praising the universe . . . as love invisibly presses against you.” Jena’s gifts are prodigious, but I hear most her wild music and infectious large spirit moving in between her lines which harvest light, laughter, and tenderness in the world. We readers are blessed to have such a poet in our midst and in our community. | Major Jackson
Jena’s work is testament to the fact that my mother’s teaching lives on, in her, as one of her most gifted students. She has done my mother [the late poet Deborah Digges] a great honor by writing this book. | Charles Digges
This is a story of love and suffering in the spirit of the old masters and the new mothers. It will break your heart and make it new again. | Dawn Skorczewski
I have had the privilege to know Jena for nearly 6 years and there’s never been a poem, a blog post or a conversation that didn’t leave me wishing she was my neighbor in a tiny, tiny village of Awake people. She has soul and spirit and it all pours through in her poetry and writing. “Don’t Miss This” is what we’ve all been waiting for — a way to have more Jena Strong inspiration in our lives each day. | Shawn Ledington Fink
Jena Strong’s moving debut collection brings to mind Virginia Woolf—”We think back through our mothers if we are women.” Strong does that, but she also thinks forward through her daughters. It is this quality of movement between literary antecedents and daily life that make this such a satisfying book, filled like life itself, with joy and grief. The title says it all: “Don’t Miss This.” | Donna Hilbert
With fierce tenderness, Jena’s pen cuts to the quick of humanity. Her words resonate with compassion. | Sara White Buscher
The cadences, internal rhymes, insights and emotional honesty all come together in Jena’s poetry, raising it above the ordinary while mixing the inspirational and confessional with a deeply introspective voice. As a reader, you know you’re in the company of someone who has been intoxicated with language since the beginning of time, or at least since she drank in the sound of those first vowels. The journey or personal arc she traces in “Don’t Miss This” has special relevance for women as mothers/wives/daughters but its focus on inner-healing speaks to us all. Jena is a writer you don’t want to miss. | Bill Dodge
Additional Words from Readers
~ Your words dance and sing. You make a woman’s “fierce heart” go forth bravely to make us all feel safer. (I feel like Adrienne Rich is riding on your shoulder!)
~ The first time I read your work was when a friend of mine posted your poem “Tell Me About It” and every single cell in my soul felt like its heart beat for the first time. THANK YOU for the inspiration and illumination. Oceans and continents of awe & appreciation from Johannesburg.
~ I love everything you share on Facebook. Your posts are USEFUL on a soul level. it’s one of the reasons I log on. Please know I treasure your honesty and courage and humanness.
~ I follow your blog and am always inspired when I’m down, or softened when I’m angry, or filled when empty.
~ I have always struggled with understanding poetry. I’m a bit of an analytical thinker, and if I don’t “get” something, I can make myself nuts. But when I read your poetry, I don’t know why, but I relax, and breathe, and don’t worry that I might not get everything. Your writing is beautiful, and always moves me.
~ I am in awe of your writing. You seem so true to yourself and are truly gifted. The illustrations and prose together resonate with me at such a deep level… I find truth, meaning, comfort and insight in your writing. Hope and joy are in there too.
~ Serendipitously, I came upon your writing and marvel at the personal courage it displays. It prompted me to start posting the deeply personal stuff again. The true and the real.
~ I cannot even begin to tell you how your writing is touching me in the depths. Way down. I don’t want to longingly wonder another day.
~ Dayum. You are really really good at this stuff.
~ Honest, visceral, strong, fierce and with butterfly touches.
~ Here’s the journey of a lifetime in the raw eloquence of a dream. Don’t miss these poems!
~ Your book has been a gift to me, over and over and over. I went to bed one night as I was spinning in the exquisite confusion of realizing that my marriage might be ending, and I prayed for help. The next morning, as I sat down at the computer, I clicked on your bookmarked blog, one I had visited once over a year earlier, always intending to come back to but never doing it. That morning I felt drawn to it, and sat down and wept as I read, and ordered your book as soon as the next paycheck came.
~ I want to thank you for writing a heart’s guide to transformation, to self-becoming, to courage. I have been helped over and over and over again, reminded that I am not crazy, reminded that my feelings of power and vulnerability and deep awareness are more real than the fears, or at least more wise. I have been guided and helped, and I want you to know that. I thank you. I sit down with your book and am cradled, am able to rest and be nourished.
~ Thank you for inspiring me to be honest, open and real.
~ A few of my favorite poets are Anne Sexton, Pablo Neruda, Windy Paz-Amor, June Jordan. I’m adding Jena Strong to my list. I LOVE her new book of poems, “Don’t Miss This.”
~ I loved your poem “What If” on Katrina Kenison’s blog. I have read it over and over… It delivers such a beautiful and important message. I emailed the link to a friend who is facing some challenges right now. She was grateful to read your poem too. I think this poem should be engraved on some kind of decorative wall hanging so people could purchase it, hang it in their home or place of work and read it daily. As you can see, I really really loved it!
~ I feel I’ve been gifted an understanding companion in your book, and know that different bits will speak to me as I continue on my own exploding, quiet journey. Not to make what is about you about me! Just that you reflect so beautifully and powerfully. I want to gush over your brilliance and heart, but my words won’t do you justice. And I haven’t had my coffee yet. I hope many people buy your book so that they too will have it in their lives. Thank you, again and again and again!
~ I just finished your book. It took me this long because I had to put it down and sob a few times. . . then I picked it up and opened it randomly again and again. Thank you for this gift you have shared, of choosing to follow your heart and gently navigating the consequences. It is truly beautiful, and cathartic for anyone who has followed her truth, or who fantasizes about following her own truth – knowing that in the end, everything is going to be perfectly OK, and exactly as it should be. I am so grateful to you.
~ I woke early this morning as has been usual with too familiar deep ache and grief. I had your book in the bed and read several of your poems. I want to say how much I appreciate your genius art of written expression and most of all, the truth and heart you paint with words that walked by my side this morning. I face a new day, knowing my deepest human struggles and joys are shared.
~Thank you for this gift you have shared, of choosing to follow your heart and gently navigating the consequences. It is truly beautiful, and cathartic for anyone who has followed her truth, or who fantasizes about following her own truth – knowing that in the end, everything is going to be perfectly OK, and exactly as it should be.
~ I nearly read it cover to cover today. beautiful. inspiring. eloquent. messy. honest. brutal. insightful. just like life. brava!
~ I just wanted to thank you for your words & especially for putting “Don’t Miss This” out there. Your poetry speaks to my experience so directly.
~ The poems speak volumes about the beautiful person who dared to share them.
~ I haven’t written many poems in the last several years, but I have written a few in the last few weeks. I’d like to thank you for that inspiration and helping open my heart wider.
~ Your writing never fails to open my heart in beautiful and unexpected ways!