Instructions between Takeoff and Landing


The poems in "Instructions between Takeoff and Landing" take place in the middle of myriad journeys: tracking the twin Voyager satellites as they vanish into the unknown, reckoning with a troubling national history, looking back at life lived and forward to the life yet to come. Speakers meditate on the death of loved ones and their own mortality, relationships bent and broken, misleading histories at odds with personal stories, faith and doubt, a ubiquitous media culture, and their own origins and hoped-for destinations. Weaving deft transitions in tone from tender to bombastic, apologetic to brash, and humorous to elegiac, this collection asserts the ways in which even now, we strive to contain Whitmanic multitudes within the constantly shifting borders of self. Poems hover in the liminal space between traditional and innovative form, locating there a way to entice the reader to enter while pushing the boundaries of what poetry can do. Amid this collection's formal inventions, poems offer a sustained reading comprehension exam that both encapsulates and interrogates the speaker, the culture, and even the reader. In the context of a nation hinging on the axes of justice, freedom, self-expression, and tragedy, the voices in these poems reflect on how they both shape and are shaped by the invisible forces and inescapable influences that surround us.


Charles Jensen earned a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing at ASU in 2004.

Praise for this book

Charles Jensen’s 'Instructions between Takeoff and Landing' is a poetic primer for living through these recent years 'bloated with the arrogance of America.' From the personal to the political and back (with a delightful Adrienne Rich-infused cento), Jensen’s poems are elegiac, hilarious, and deadly serious. Formally inventive―with a series of “story problems” and quiz questions about what you've just read―Jensen provides an immersive experience, a delicately ironic jolt with each poem.

Denise Duhamel

'Instructions between Takeoff and Landing' is Charles Jensen’s most dynamic collection. We find the unexpected. Jensen’s dexterity with form and imagination are carefully balanced. Though the voice in these poems is urgent, Jensen wants us to slow down and listen. He tells us: You’ve come to worry about being lost the way I am lost. I have become a cautionary tale. Jensen’s poems are direct, and they address the value and complexity of lives lived in the world around us.

Ruben Quesada
instructions between takeoff and landing book cover
Date published
University of Akron Press

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