• Series: The New Series #76
  • ISBN-13: 978-1-934103-69-2
  • ISBN-10: 1-934103-69-1
  • Pages: 192
  • Price: $18.00

On a Clear Day

Jasmine Dreame Wagner

On A Clear Day, the second full-length book by Brooklyn-based musician, poet, and essayist Jasmine Dreame Wagner, looks toward horizons past and present, natural and synthetic, individual and communal. Over the course of this formidable project, readers are welcomed into a perspective refreshingly nuanced and unpretentious, particularly when it comes to those themes familiar to so many Americans––post-9/11 national identity, industrial detritus, the 20th Century’s long goodbye, and the ever-present click-bait listicle. Wagner’s keen eye for journalistic detail finds a brilliant counterpart in the inquisitiveness of her dynamic imagination, punctuating stretches of awestruck calm with pointed exclamations for action.

Consisting of both lyric essays and poems, On a Clear Day is as concerned with blurring genres as it is with breaking away from their constraints––formally, as well as what readers expect of these genres, be it philosophical tract, memoir, or meditation. Wagner’s writing can, in a blink, alternate from the noisiness of urban dwelling to melodic, high lyricism, capturing the rhythms of verse and bouncy optimism of contemporary ad language with ease. The effect of these tonal shifts and disparate genre combinations is often sublime, highlighting the astonishing intellect and skill of the author, while adding only more power to this singular text.


“Here is a book I did not know I had been waiting for. Here is a book in which documentation, poetry, criticism, memoir, and philosophy can come to collective life in a single unclassifiable breath, and intelligence and ineffability invite us into priceless, uneasy growth, one that moves in previously unsung directions. Jasmine Dreame Wagner does not dismiss the wound of discomfort and she does not turn away from the spectre of love. Written in the tradition of what it might mean to inhabit ‘the gaze back, the return, my hands in the dirt,’ On a Clear Day is experiential and cerebral, gorgeous and accountable, stunning and eidetic. And though I know I will not forget this book, this book endeavors to remember us, too. ‘I am you; I am you.’ I am grateful that Jasmine Dreame Wagner speaks this into the world.” —Lo Kwa Mei-en


“Here Jasmine Dreame Wagner works in the contemporary lyric tradition of Koestenbuam, Nelson, and Rankine—to heave upwards the gravestone late capitalism places upon us, and ascend through the drone in concentric spirals. These essays fly from the snow to the stars and back again so that Wagner may finally see the beauty of our world as one only sees the beauty of a nebula from an impossible distance, imperiled yet struggling with wonder across the abyss.” —Janaka Stucky


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My mother pirouettes on her skate’s rubber stopper and glides backwards onto the floor. I clomp after her in my rentals. The dancers, who dazzle the crowd in sequin leotards under the disco ball, grab my mother’s hands and twirl her. With no amount of practice can I attain the grace she embodies. I grip the bannister and watch from the wall. Even as a young girl, my temperament is best suited not to the execution, but to the observation of kinetic beauty.

When the temperature drops, the fire department floods the town hall parking lot with lake water. It freezes overnight into a black tray of ice. A lone lamp on a telephone pole offers a meager spotlight.

Night on the makeshift ice rink: a capsule memory, a narcotic suspended in the soluble rim of my body. The moonless sky, the electric wires that ring the lamp, the parabolas of distant headlights, they harden, become more certain in memory. Beyond the curb, the chain link fence’s white quilt ascends from the irascible overgrowth; remnants of a snow squall crumble like sugar cubes onto the asphalt; and my mother skates loops in the center of all of it; my mother skates late into the night; my mother skates the shape of a question mark just beyond the halo of light.

In La Jetée, Chris Marker suggests that the images from our childhood that plague us into adulthood will portend our destiny.

In The Odyssey, Circe, Greek goddess of magic, restores Odysseus and his men to their authentic state: pigs. Hermes releases the spell, but only so that Odysseus can fulfill his destiny: the circular journey: the loop. Circe’s name is derived from the Greek verb kirkoô, meaning to secure with rings or to hoop. Myth, too, tethers us to our primary sources of understanding.

I drink from the hose though my mother tells me not to. The water is so cold. It tastes like truth. It’s merely satiation. Please don’t tell me— Let me drink.





Copyright © 2017 by Jasmine Dreame Wagner

“Qualities experts have told me a book should have: cohesiveness and confidence, the structure of a hand-bound signature, an unobtrusive investment in conversation. Fine. Thanks for the advice. But here’s the thing: I’m tired of tidy cleverness. I feel bruised by confident answers. On a Clear Day is an accord of forms. Tell me, do you want a collection of poems? Do you want your essays to be attempts? Do you want a travelogue? Do you want field notes? Do you want an unruly deposition? Do you want a philosopher’s wastebook? Do you want art criticism? Do you want a fugue? Do you want a theodicy? Do you want a call to action? Do you want the American Songbook? Do you want a DSM you can call holy? Do you want a manual for forgiveness? Wagner’s made that for you. This is what a book should be. This is an inhabitation you can hold in your hands.” —Meghan Maguire Dahn


“A documentary meditation on trajectory, travel, time, and culture, Jasmine Dreame Wagner’s On a Clear Day is exemplary of what Deleuze & Guattari call ‘nomadic thinking.’ It is always attuned to the struggle of being and to the voices just beyond her own. When Wagner asks, ‘How can you be sure that oblivion doesn’t love you,’ she means not only that it does, but also that we’re engaged in conversation with it. Wagner’s sprawling prose and bursts of verse fill the contemporary abyss with memories, with idiomatic observations, with fragments of narrative, with love. ‘I feel like I need a miracle,’ Wagner writes, but I think she knows she’s performed one and herein established herself as a singular dynamo among other stars.” —James Meetze


“Jasmine Dreame Wagner’s On a Clear Day surrenders to the project of loneliness, of living in a landscape overcome at once by the authority of nature (‘I don’t know how to snow over a city, how to freeze a world with a gesture’) and the insistence of the smart phone’s screen (‘I understood there is no IRL’). Her writing recalls C.D. Wright’s essay-like fugues of data and Kate Greenstreet’s quietly probing prose talks. In the running monologue of artist-thinker, Wagner observes the subway and the country stream with one lens of attention, quotes Deleuze and her friend’s Live Journal with equal seriousness, and examines ‘the man I mistakenly loved’ with the same observational distance from which she admits her own hesitancies toward feminist theory. She wants ‘to drill [her] way into the center of something in a world of steadily increasing surfaces.’ While the world seems picked away (‘When I flew to the desert, I thought I wanted to flee the world, but what I wanted was to pull its edges up around me’) she finds, ‘In power, erasure signifies obliteration.//In poems, erasure signifies remains.’ We have in Wagner a poet who has managed to almost entirely divorce herself from the dying world, only to be willingly reconfirmed in its remaining potentials.” —Matthew Henriksen


“Part inquiry into the inner life of the poem, part aphoristic meditation on language, being, memory, love, and the ephemeral phases of perception that create and dissolve the world, On A Clear Day opens a clairvoyant horizon where the ongoing promises of logos may emerge as from a dream. Lucidity, for Jasmine Dreame Wagner, is less a state than a quest, a lyrical commitment driven by restless devotion to melodic fidelity. Wagner invites the reader on a journey that is not linear, but a network of touchstones. From Paul Celan to watching movies with her mother to Yves Klein and Radiohead and Brueghel and John Cage. Over all these pages drifts the presence of snow. Snow is what consecrates and erases – a hallowing that is also an emptiness. “I am salt on the world after a long night of snow; I am my expression of formless intensity; I am you; I am you.” The poem becomes a vehicle for empathy through repeated invocations. Bricoleur–like it builds a process for building a world out of flotsam and eiderdown. Wagner subtly and precisely re-enchants the word and the world. I found this book utterly enthralling. —Patrick Pritchett
“With On a Clear Day, Jasmine Dreame Wagner is opening the world we cannot see just for us. Memories flood the pages, tactile and ethereal and real and possibly imagined but all told as whisper of wisdom and sight, tension and release, history and dream. Wagner takes us with her on her journey, through the locations of her greatest revelations and her observations of the world she sees surrounding her, her ‘ruin’s field.’ On a Clear Day is a song full of silence and reverb and heart.” —Sean Doyle
“The sentences and lines that add up to On a Clear Day are writing themselves not just out of a job, but toward the end of work, the collapse of art, the emptying of an accreted self. They're writing themselves out of a hole, a tunnel, an exhausted atmosphere; they're writing their way through paintings, history, poems, horror movies, silence. Why speak amidst the noise? Why be impure, reused, banal; why go through the motions? The lines and sentences in On a Clear Day are writing their way through the motions. They're writing themselves, as Jasmine Dreame Wagner is writing us, into the flesh of the present, the work of the moment, trying to dig us out of now.” —Kate Schapira

Jasmine Dreame Wagner is an American artist, poet, and musician. She is the author of On a Clear Day (Ahsahta Press), a collection of lyric essays and poems that asks the new millennium’s most essential questions: What does it mean to bear witness in the years since Y2K, since 9/11? What does it mean to be a producer of images, of silence, to be a maker of noise? From the tops of high-rise skyscrapers to the depths of mine shafts that produced the stones that gave birth to America’s tallest buildings, Wagner looks and listens to the emergence of new palettes in our natural and digital landscapes, to the new modes of being that have brought us to the limits of human experience, and to the new human emotions that haven’t yet been named.

Wagner’s first book, Rings, won the Kelsey Street Press Firsts! Prize, selected by Elizabeth Robinson. Hailed as “powerfully exercised, technically masterful, and encyclopedic in its scope” by Publishers Weekly, Rings uses and abuses formal verse to investigate digital culture’s fascination with urban ruins and the effects of climate change on natural and manmade landscapes. Wagner is also the author of: Ask (winner of the 2015 Slope Editions Chapbook Prize), Rewilding (winner of the 2013 Ahsahta Press Chapbook Contest, selected by Cathy Park Hong), Listening for Earthquakes (First Runner-Up for the 2012 Caketrain Chapbook Contest, selected by Rosmarie Waldrop), Seven Sunsets (The Lettered Streets Press), and an e-chapbook, True Crime (NAP).

In a review of Listening for Earthquakes, Colorado Review champions “Wagner’s masterful skill in bending and breaking the rules” and her “musicality and dramatic verve.” Her poems have been described as “powerful and emotionally vivid” by Poets’ Quarterly and “a pleasure to read aloud” by Examiner.com. “She continually slams our heads with powerful words and images,” writes Thurston Moore in his column, Bull Tongue.

Wagner was raised between New York City and in the rural backwoods with a love for music and multi-disciplinary art-making. Impose Magazine describes her home-recorded, self-released record, Searchlight Needles, as “a long-playing lullaby that detours into night tremor noise interludes.” According to The Onion A.V. Club, her recordings demonstrate “a feel for her influences’ primal sweetness and creepiness.” Wagner has performed her original music and sound-poetry collaborations with Charlie Rauh and Sondra Sun-Odeon at The St. Marks Poetry Project (New York, NY), CMJ Music Marathon (New York, NY), free103point9 Wave Farm (Acra, NY), HM157 (Los Angeles, CA), Charter Oak Cultural Center (Hartford, CT), and at the Olympia Experimental Music Festival (Olympia, WA). Her poems and cross-discipline practices have earned her fellowships, grants, and residencies from the Connecticut Office of the Arts, Department of Economic and Community Development, Connecticut Commission on Culture and Tourism, Foundation for Contemporary Arts, Summer Literary Seminars—Kenya, and The Wassaic Project.

A graduate of Columbia University (BA) and the University of Montana (MFA), Wagner lives and works in Brooklyn. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in American Letters & Commentary, Aufgabe, Colorado Review, Fence, Guernica, Hyperallergic, Indiana Review, New American Writing, Verse, YETI Magazine, and in three anthologies: The Arcadia Project: North American Postmodern Pastoral (Ahsahta Press), Lost and Found: Stories From New York (Mr. Beller’s Neighborhood Books), and We Like It Fast: Writing Prompts and Model Stories from the Editors and Contributors of NANO Fiction (NANO Fiction). Wagner is currently at work on a short film with Jonathan Schwarz and a solo record for voice, chamber orchestra, and jazz quintet.