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Instructions for Killing the Jackal

Publication Date: November 2011


Instructions for Killing the Jackal takes its name from a classic conundrum-what to do if you find yourself dating a half-man, half-jackal. The answer is clear: “Say, I’ll take you furless and toothless, // take your gums and the nicks from the razor, / let you bleed on me if you return.” This embrace of violence links many of the poems, and more importantly, asks how we escape. Wright answers with poems teeming with a host of savage crocodiles, preachers, delicate birds, and good common folk. These seemingly contradictory forces are woven together by a masterful lyric voice that creates a world where a girl can become a god as easily as she can skin one. Even pain is merely a conduit for a greater discovery of love, gender, and the perseverance of the human spirit.


“A striking new voice on the poetry scene, Erica Wright’s work is hard-hitting and unafraid. Instructions for Killing the Jackal is bewildering, and like the title poem, pierces through you, tells you: ‘we could sand each other, until we got to the good parts.’ Raw and powerful, this book keeps us ruminating.”

-Nathalie Handal

The poems in Erica Wright’s bold debut balance their investigations of danger, dysfunction and bad weather not merely with beauty and poise (although she is generous with both) but also with an imaginative counterforce all her own. In poem after poem, she sinks her heels into adversity, pulls back on its rope like a pro, and throws down in a language equal to the experience. Wright knows life’s hardships leave their imprints on us, and that there is beauty to be found in the imprinted face-not a delicate prettiness, but a beauty that celebrates persistence, resilience, valor. ‘Sever my salt-beaten cords,’ she writes in her tough little anthem, ‘Prow,’ and ‘let me…make home / among the wrecked and wonderful.’ In this remarkable book-with all its brilliant feats of metaphor, formal prowess, and hard-won wisdom-she has done just that.”

-Timothy Donnelly

Erica Wright’s brilliant, gutsy, clear-eyed poems take on her life and its people, the ‘wrecked and the wonderful,’ with uncanny perception, dead-on amusement, and restrained sorrow. Her indelible imagery-the small town preacher catching toast in his teeth, a cobra with its mouth sewn shut, loosening the stitches enough to hiss-gets into your head and under your skin and alters your vision of bittersweet experience, skewers it, deepens it on the spot.”

-Emily Fragos

About the Author

© Paula Wright

Erica Wright

Erica Wright is the author of two poetry collections, Instructions for Killing the Jackal and All the Bayou Stories End with Drowned. She was the Poetry Editor at Guernica Magazine for more than a decade. Her poems have appeared in Blackbird, Crazyhorse, Denver Quarterly, New Orleans Review, The Rumpus, and elsewhere. Her latest book is a collection of essays, Snake, for Bloomsbury's Object Lessons series.

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