The Parachute Jump Effect by Judith Arcana, reviewed by Penelope Scambly Schott


Review by Penelope Scambly Schott

The Parachute Jump Effect
by Judith Arcana

Uttered Chaos Press (
ISBN 978-0-9823716-9-5
2012, $10.00

Unless you are of a certain age and grew up in Chicago, you won’t understand the title of this chapbook until you get to the final poem, a shared recollection of a long-gone ride in a vanished amusement park.

                                          Riverview’s gone.
It’s been disappeared.  This is all about history –
that’s where the parachute jump is now.

The ride was about choosing to rise in order to fall – the poet felt the fall in her heart, the woman she is addressing felt the fall in her throat.  This was the thrill of anxiety.

Throughout Judith Arcana’s chapbook, we hear the voice of a wryly urban poet playing with questions and anxiety.  The book opens with two scary dream poems leading to a poem which dissects uncertainty.

Ok, All Right, Yes

You think you know what’s going to happen
but you don’t, you know only what you think
is going to happen –

After examples of expectations that may or may not come true, the poem concludes:

you think you’ll live until you die
and hey – ok, all right, yes
you can have that one
that one’s got to come true.

Much of the pleasure of these poems lies in their tone, serious but often witty.  Even when Arcana becomes dark and philosophical, as in “Lois, Questions” where she addresses the dead friend to whom she has dedicated the book, she is also playing with ideas.  Here are some of her questions:

What’s it like out where you are?

Is there music? Is there eating? Sleeping?

Can you fly?  Can you see me?  Are you coming back?

Will you be someone else?  A wolverine, or a stalk of corn?

Do you still have cancer when you’re dead?
Or does it go away after it kills you?  Are you angry?

In this collection Arcana is not angry but she is chronically perplexed – and never in an abstract way.  Whether she writes about safety matches or bakeries, she is exploring and reporting back on the mind at work.  You will want to follow her journey.

Reviewer Bio: Penelope Scambly Schott’s verse biography A Is for Anne: Mistress Hutchinson Disturbs the Commonwealth received an Oregon Book Award.  Recent books are Lovesong for Dufur and Lillie Was a Goddess, Lillie Was a Whore.  Forthcoming Fall 2014 is How I Became an Historian.  Penelope teaches an annual workshop in Dufur, Oregon.

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