Rebecca’s debut poetry collection, Ask Me About the Future, is out now with UQP.
Full of zest and flair, Jessen’s poems map constellations of desire, loss and longing. Riffing on the future (which isn’t what it used to be), dating apps, despair, Bonnie Tyler, Taylor Swift and the lesbian Bachelorette, they are set in interstellar queer utopias, maternity wards and single beds.These are poems of sly surprises, radical vulnerability, dark-edged humour and vast originality. Following Jessen’s award-winning verse novel, Gap, this collection confirms Jessen as one of the most engaging and talented writers of her generation.
Read (or watch) Shastra Deo’s launch speech hosted by Avid Reader in 2020.
- 2021 Kenneth Slessor Prize for Poetry: shortlisted
- 2021 Victorian Premier’s Literary Prize for Poetry: shortlisted
- 2020 Anne Elder Award: commended
Want to receive your own fortune? Ask the Oracle about your future.
Praise for Ask Me About the Future:
This collection is a reminder that we are on our way somewhere. Hopefully progress, that achingly, frustrating slow walker, is striding along with us, but we can’t be sure. Jessen’s playful yet incisive exploration of time through the collection captures the strange miasma of hope, exhilaration and terror thoughts of the future conjure. Whether through its ruminations on love, family, class or queerness, Ask Me About the Future finds a use for past hurts, transmogrifying them into stepping-stones, rather than heavy baggage. Ask Me About the Future casts the past as a soft ache we carry with us, and the present as a strange intersection where before and soon mingle. It’s also funny, romantic and wise, a companion and comrade for the long journey forward.
—Caitlin Wilson, Cordite Poetry Review
Jessen’s poems look into an unmade future, and in doing so shape a space for the lived experience of queerness that has been ignored or concealed in the present. This nuanced collection delivers an astute and vulnerable investigation of the intersections of gender, class, familial love and sexuality. Ask Me About the Future sparkles with sharp humour and a willingness to use irony to incise and examine the patriarchal confines of modern life. Underlying the humour and irony is a brave readiness to speak a new truth — the bedrock of this collection is its captivating directness and honesty.
—Kenneth Slessor Prize for Poetry Judges’ Report
Ask Me About the Future is an acutely intimate and forthright journey through the many manifestations and difficulties of love. Jessen expertly weaves together lived experience and the social-political dimensions of gender and sexuality through a broad array of poetic forms. Invigorating in its unpredictable accumulation of themes and textures, the collection encompasses online dating, familial love and vulnerability, queer utopias, reality TV, biting satire on the marriage equality debate, and richly sorrowful lyrics of anxiety and trauma. These captivating poems are affirmations, both devastating and joyful.
—Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards Judges’ Report
With formal playfulness, and with humour, in Ask Me About the Future, Rebecca Jessen successfully captures the tensions between vulnerability and resistance, between empathy and detachment, between hope and the recognition of limits.
—Anne Elder Awards Judges’ Report
Loaded with essential contemporary elements, Rebecca Jessen’s poems are the work of a skilful bricoleur – found poems, erasures, a cento, micro prose and recombinations. Her content includes horoscopes, Netflix, dating apps, pop stars, the royal ballet, art exhibitions, sad and sexy queer love, domestic scenes and family crisis. Shadowed by a chronic emptiness — “driving cars worth more than your self esteem” — the poet pursues diagnosis and cure. Often funny, reality tv is détourned to a lesbian Bachelorette and in ‘Vote Yes’ “a pineapple is not a piña colada just because it wants to be”. This assured, eclectic, compassionate book is on a mission, not only to a speculative futuristic utopia of queerness, but is also chasing a reconciliation “with the grief of gender”. It’s spirited, astute and totally up-to-date.
If you wanted to know about the future you wouldn’t expect a neat response would you? Ask Me About the Future’s surprising and sure reinventions of form are one version of the future, and so are its class-tinged mini non-linear narratives. Jessen’s poems explode with multiplicity and humour, but also take quiet times out. Queer can be brash, sure, but there are other tones and structures: borrowed from apparent enemies – and Netflix. You won’t know the answer till the end.
Ask Me About the Future is a book that offers up queer life as found poetry, lines from songs, love like a cut made deep and long. Jessen’s writing is a heart split open, a fist held close, the body always surfacing.
Rebecca Jessen’s debut collection of poetry, Ask Me About the Future, shows this important poet developing an assured voice six years on from the publication of her award-winning verse novel, Gap (2014). Jessen’s is a vital voice in the queersphere.
—Alison Clifton, StylusLit
The future is dark, yes, but it is more than that. ‘We may never touch queerness,’ Muñoz declares in Jessen’s part-one epigraph, ‘but we can feel it as the warm illumination of a horizon imbued with potentiality.’ Here is a poetics that teeters along/between these horizons, these edges of dark and illumination, ideal and collapse, interpersonal and societal.
—Shastra Deo, Overland
Jessen makes artful connection seem easy. This seems to be a cornerstone of her work: a clear capacity to experiment and create aesthetic beauty without diminishing the linguistic artistry at play.
—Kylie Thompson, Reviewers of Oz
Rebecca Jessen’s ‘Ask Me About the Future’ is something valiant, and yet humble: a gentle and compelling deep dive into what it means to occupy the world as a queer person.
—Madison Griffiths, goodreads
Asking about the past? Read Rebecca’s award-winning verse novel, Gap (2014).