The Only Thing That Matters



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The poems in Kim Jensen’s powerful new collection have the speed and instability of linguistic particles traveling outwards from a primal collision: light with darkness, oppression with liberty, doubt with certainty, and faith with its impossible Other. Occupying a tense, fugitive space, the poems step off from the ideas and vocabulary of radical poet and novelist, Fanny Howe into startling new formulations. Compact and evocative, Jensen’s lyrics are marked by the intensity of their moral commitment to matters of the world and matters of the heart.  This is an important work, offering glimpses of what might be possible —if only the love, faith, and compassion that sustain us could themselves be sustained



“By applying a complex algorithm to fellow poet Fanny Howe’s work, Kim Jensen creates poems that honor Howe’s directive to reinstate words in the world by “...liturgy or random encounters.” Like the medieval women writers who included passages from other women authors in their own works, Jensen’s homage results in poetry as a form of hospitality, a way of being truly open to the world. “Ordinary speech seems like a sin to me,” writes Jensen, so she gifts us with this miraculous celebration of all that is both spiritual and worldly.”

--Tina Darragh, author of Striking Resemblance

“In this lucid collection, Kim Jensen moves between intimate address and an engagement with the world, connecting perception with perception with subtlety and distinction. Jensen’s deftness in creating her own ‘poetic logic’ offers pleasing jolts of surprise in a conceptual project that is original and compelling.”

—Elizabeth Robinson, author of The Orphan and Its Relations

Bread Alone
by Kim Jensen

The Woman I Left Behind
by Kim Jensen

“In this provocative collection, Kim Jensen gives voice to the struggle of those who seek love in a world saturated with brutality and aggression. The concise lyrics in Bread Alone condemn the violence in Iraq, Palestine, and Lebanon, while exploring the intimate consequences of these and other injustices.

Darkly humorous, grotesque, sorrowful, outraged, and some- times poignantly hopeful, Jensen's poems possess a strange beauty and remind us of the key purposes of poetry - to warn and to revive our sense of conscience and connection.”


“This powerful work reproduces the shock of the life that millions of people lead in silence, in darkness.
These poems can wake up a rock.”

—Etel Adnan, author of Sitt Marie Rose

“Kim Jensen’s poems are searing and spare. They will haunt you and stretch your vision. You won’t be the same person after reading them that you were before.”

—Naomi Shihab Nye, author of Habibi and Going, Going

“In a time of news about war we can only reflect the devastation of others. What comes in can't come out.  True resistance seems muted, dissolved. Here we arrive at just such a landscape, but perhaps because it is a woman's terrain, we are at least given bread.”

—Fanny Howe, award-winning poet and author of On the Ground

The Woman I Left Behind tells the story of a love between a Palestinian student and a young American woman. This remarkable debut novel explores the difficulties of an intercultural relationship, and it gives us a rare glimpse into Palestinian history and culture. Set in Southern California during the first Gulf War with flashback scenes in Jerusalem and Beirut, The Woman I Left Behind reveals the cultural dilemmas that inevitably occur when lovers from different worlds come together.

The novel's two engaging main characters live on the artistic and political fringe of society. Irene is a student activist on the brink of maturity and intellectual independence. Khalid is a charismatic, yet contradictory figure, who has been indelibly scarred by his experiences of deportation, war, and exile. The novel chronicles—in powerful, poetic language—each character's struggle to overcome the personal and political barriers that divide them.

With its detailed depictions of modern Palestinian history, as well as its colorful cast of supporting characters—from Palestinian feminists to American cyberpunks—The Woman I Left Behind reiterates the vital connections between politics, the imagination, and the most intimate aspects of our lives.”


“A beautifully written and promising first novel”

—Middle East Studies Association Bulletin

This is a love story with an edge to it, a novel that is daring in style and content, a riveting exploration of the place where politics, culture and psychology intersect, where a history of wars collides with everyday life.

—Jordan Times

“Debut novelist Jensen, winner of the 2001 Raymond Carver Prize for Short Fiction, powerfully portrays Khalid's boyhood amid the violence of the Middle East and the proud but complicated family that he either lost or left behind...the tale is well crafted, with its scenes of high drama and great sex. A first novel that offers a lot more than most.”

— Kirkus Reviews

“This is a revolutionary love story...an important book for the years ahead.”

— Fanny Howe

“Packed with politics and sensuality, warm as bread baked in a Palestinian village bakery and passionate as California's purple jacaranda, The Woman I left Behind is a marvelously told tale, a timely offering for American and Arab readers to view themselves in the other's intimate and unsparing mirror.”

— Sharif S. Elmusa, Al-Ahram Weekly; Co-editor of Grape Leaves: A Century of Arab-American Poetry

“...the universality of the human issues addressed in Jensen's debut novel assures its appeal to a broad audience, while the richness of the writing enhances that allure. Jensen's description is artistic, her voice honest, her politics informed...[an] excellent novel.”

—Washington Report on Middle East Affairs


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