Constellarium, poems by Jordan Rice

$16.00 $14.00


Constellarium, poems by Jordan Rice


poems by Jordan Rice

Finalist for the 2017 Kate Tufts Discovery Award
Finalist for the 2015 Orison Poetry Prize

Read “Lost Body” from Constellarium in The New York Times Magazine.

poems by Jordan Rice
Orison Books
ISBN 978-0-9906917-7-8
90 pp.  /  $16.00
Distributed to the trade by Itasca Books
1-800-901-3480 /
Publication date: April 5, 2016

“[A] real and significant discovery. Constellarium is a book like no other, ingenious and wide ranging.”

-DON SHARE, chair of the 2017 Kate Tufts Award Judges Committee, editor of Poetry magazine 

“Rice is a poet of breathtaking emotional impact, her delicate lyricism holding a pliable and resilient strength that bears the weight of truth and intense feeling. These lines bend and sway but snap back with ferocity. [. . .] Constellarium is a devastating and beautiful collection.”

-DAVID NILSEN, Fourth & Sycamore

“In Jordan Rice’s debut collection, Constellarium, the body—imagined, remembered, real, ‘rumored dissolute for its mutability’—is her central subject. A trans woman assigned male at birth, Rice’s exploration of gender is tender, personal. The body as inheritance marks many of her poems. […] These poems are both intimate and restrained. […] The body, while personal, is also something shared, something public, something that belongs not quite to the self alone.”

-CAROLYN OGBURN, Poetry International

Constellarium stages a careful reckoning, made all the more exceptional by its quiet, unrelenting force.”


“Through these harsh but magnificent and unblanching poems, [Rice] blurs the genders and dares us to walk in her shoes. In startling lines that render her vulnerable and lead us to empathize with her struggle, she reminds us that although her voice and body have undergone radical changes, her crux and core remain constant.”

-CINDY HOCHMAN, The Pedestal Magazine

“From the poet’s gender transition to memories of family affected by military service and friends affected by personal trials, Rice has created a book that speaks to what must be faced and overcome in the struggle of staying true to one’s self. […] Constellarium is full of moments of crucial clarity. Even in ‘Tresses,’ when the mother ‘cannot look at me so very long,’ the poem acknowledges the looking that is done. Acknowledging the human effort behind such looking is difficult yet necessary work.”


“Constellarium is a bold announcement of a new poetic voice to be reckoned with. These poems make us stare down shame and celebrate transition, celebrate the body inside. Jordan Rice does not flinch from what society would have us try to look away from, instead she carefully constructs a book in which we are forced to reckon, layer by layer, with her being. Let us be thankful that such a voice exists, that it is brilliant and shattering, and here to take us all on her journey.”


“Jordan Rice’s stunning debut, a shooting star of a first book if there ever was one, may be the most important volume you read this year. Its taut, rich language of visceral vulnerability sharply articulates the missing in-between and liminal experiences of consciousness that trans and cis readers alike have never before seen discussed in literature. These poems split open our hearts, enlarging the frame of reference and provoking us to reconsider everything about what it means to be a poet, a trans woman, a trans person. They renew and revive our sense of what it means to be human.”


“Jordan Rice’s Constellarium summons the pleasure and perils of the body, the rhetorical and physical damages it can endure. She rescues childhood from memory and makes real again the moments that make or obscure us. Unlike so many contemporary elegies, these poems do not chronicle losses with tepid nostalgia, they bend time to lead you to griefs at their most unpredictable, at the places most poems would look away. Rice’s sentences hold more than you thought you could bear. Her masterful control of syntax teaches me what spells already know–subject, object, modify, modify, arrive at the awe that you are, knowing too much and refusing sorrow.”



Constellarium chronicles the author’s gender transition from biological male to female, and engages the ontological quandaries that arise from this experience. Family history and religious heritage must be reckoned with along the way. In Rice’s poems, the evolving nature of the self, the fluidity of identity, and the lasting influence of the past are all held up to the soul’s penetrating gaze.



Jordan Rice is co-editor of the anthology Voices of Transgender Parents (Transgress Press, 2015). Her poems have been selected for the Indiana Review Poetry Prize by Aimee Nezhukumatathil, the Gulf Coast Poetry Prize by Natasha Trethewey, the Yellowwood Poetry Prize from Yalobusha Review by Beth Anne Fennelley, the Richard Peterson Poetry Prize from Crab Orchard Review, the Milton-Kessler Memorial Prize from Harpur Palate, and an AWP Intro Journals Award. Her poems have also been anthologized in Writing the Walls Down: A Convergence of LGBTQ Voices, Troubling the Line: Trans and Genderqueer Poetry and Poetics, The Southern Poetry Anthology: Volume V, Best New Poets (2008 & 2011), A Face to Meet the Faces: An Anthology of Contemporary Persona Poetry, and Best of the Web 2009. Rice received an M.F.A. from Virginia Commonwealth University and a Ph.D. from Western Michigan University, where she served as Associate Editor for New Issues Poetry & Prose and as an Assistant Poetry Editor for Third Coast



From here, nowhere’s absent shame. The body’s
rumored dissolute for its mutability. Even speech—

the clear-spoke & the speaking, my mind’s a-roar in
hoary rasp. No voice carries. I try every one, even

apology & rhetoric: the apsis of our fall. Listen.

Around us whirs the sex I’m to become—violent,
exact. I etch up another voice within your silence.

Say I’m sorry. Say I am sorry. Say again I had no choice.
I lost one self to this other & killed our child’s father.

He’ll keep me in old photos: thin frame, red beard.
Barbarossa, our priest once called me. What will he

tell our son? —Your father disappeared. Speaking
with the dead makes witchery. He transubstantiated.

There was no sign of this proclivity when I bound
them at the wrists & blessed them by our custom.


copyright © 2016 by Jordan Rice, from Constellarium (Orison Books, 2016)

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