Spirit Under Construction

“The only thing’s to go back where I came. / Trouble is, that’s an expanding blank / with an even blanker blank inside”:  thus does Jerry Harp’s Spirit under Construction frame its challenge from its very first poem.  In this collection, the perilous imperative to mark one’s life runs up against the expanding blanks of memory and of the language in which we resign ourselves to recover it.  The poems and prayers that fuse forth poignantly acknowledge that they are both vital and shortfalling, “monumental and impoverished.”  Beneath the hum and penance of the imaginable world and the loneliness of the unimaginable one, these poems weather. 

Kimberly Johnson, author of Uncommon Prayer


In Spirit under Construction, Jerry Harp makes room for “the monumental and the impoverished.” These poem are beautifully strange and prescient, formally deft and subtle. The poet attempts to read the world he encounters, to make sense of its mystery. What is before him, he says, “illumine(s) into a script I cannot read.” Yet in these poems, he transcribes and translates the world (and the otherworldly) into all its complexity. When he turns his keen attention to the ordinary, it transmutes before our eyes into the miraculous.

Eric Pankey, author of Crow-Work


Buy Spirit under Construction


Poems from Spirit under construction


The Gospel according to Batman

In the Batcave I was born again

over and over twice a week—


the colored lights and constant hum,

the music of cold, dark stone,


it was a catacomb of fighting all the wrong.


With a bath towel safety-pinned around my neck,

I ran into the world that was the world

I could become in all those dreams,


the activation that the stone

revealed, the BIFF! the ZAM! the POW!


At night I looked up, learning the stars.

Bruce Wayne knew their many names.


Blessed are those deadpan lines….


“Of what use is a dream if not a blueprint for courageous action.”


“Some days you just can’t get rid of a bomb.”


Don’t hide your lights, the hum.


They were an OOF-KAPOWIE pair

running deep in that device

that was the world clutching the roots that clenched.



  • Originally published in Boulevard.

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Jerry Harp

Jerry Harp's books of poems are Creature (Salt Publishing, 2003), Gatherings (Ashland Poetry Press, 2004), and Urban Flowers, Concrete Plains (Salt Publishing, 2006). He has edited, with Jan Weissmiller, A Poetry Criticism Reader (University of Iowa Press, forthcoming). His reviews and essays appear regularly in Pleiades. He was a visiting professor at Kenyon College from 2001 to 2004. Currently, he teaches at Lewis & Clark College. His new book of poems, forthcoming from NeoPoiesis press, is Spirit under Construction.

Contact Jerry Harp at