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We Were More Than Kindling

Publication Date: October 2023


Entitlement is a hell of a drug. The load-bearing grifts, propping up a culture of dominance, range from the canonized hierarchies that inform interpersonal and social violence, to the ecological and economic abuses of extractive resource management and disaster capitalism. We Were More than Kindling is a confessional account of the author’s navigation of these systems, a collection of poems that endeavors to make meaning where the personal and political collide. We follow the speaker’s reckoning of an intimate history of persistent sexualization and consent violation with the disillusion of coming of age in an era when abuse of power is a feature, not a bug. This collection builds momentum through a cynical premise, following its speaker’s defiant claim-staking over their own body, agency, and pleasure.

FROM We Were More Than Kindling


Winds kick the radius of flame
further. An ember can carry half a mile
or more. A small whir of

a bigger fury settles in some elsewhere
brush, nestles in wetless

leaves and renames them so thoroughly
they transmute into change
agents themselves,

like mediated accusations sprout legs
and sprint into silent houses.

Alarms clang. Small whirs

of fury. Call a burn a burn, a spade
a spade, abuse abuse. My parched

land with its wide stance
and its hands open—my parched land
and its wide maw gushing smoke.

The fire front shoves forward. The fire front
is indifferent to decorum,
shoves into December—

the fire, clueless and brutal, colludes
with wind, melts fur, melts skin,

shoves panicked animals
onto our asphalt, our domestic
quietude hurt, alerted.


“A few hours before I ran into my rapist / at Whole Foods,” the adverbial clause that opens Jessica Morey-Collins’ We Were More Than Kindling, immediately places the reader in a world where the horrific and the quotidian intersect. These poems consider human consciousness, our capacity for destruction and love, and nature through a metaphysical lens; the eco-poetics and feminism of the manuscript are inextricable from the personal lyric. Through elision, interrupted syntax, and doubling, the writing demonstrates the inadequacy of language and conveys the complexity of human experience. Lyric and rhetorical, this vital collection reflects the flux and agony of our time, for “to grow is to access a flow state from grieving, to blow each moment like a fuse.” I look forward to reading Jessica Morey-Collins for the rest of my life.

—Carolyn Hembree, author of Skinny, and Rigging a Chevy into a Time Machine and Other Ways to Escape a Plague.

The poems of We Were More than Kindling by Jessica Morey-Collins bring us characters with uncanny awareness of their place in the universe, whether battling hostile weather, interacting with plants, animals, and bodies of water, or recounting the perils of lived trauma. In “Passage,” the speaker remarks, “Amazing the way a tiny wound, precisely placed, can devastate. Who hasn’t aspired to a thicker skin?” These poems triumph in their ability to convey pain without flinching, sharing testimony of natural disaster and human violence, ultimately leaving us emboldened and aware.

—Mary Biddinger, author of Department of Elegy

About the Author

Jessica Morey-Collins

Jessica Morey-Collins is a poet and land use planner who works as a plans examiner in the Pacific Northwest. Her chapbook, We Were More than Kindling, is forthcoming with Black Lawrence Press in 2023. Jessica’s poems can be found in publications such as Prairie Schooner, Pleiades, Cotton Xenomorph, Maudlin House, Hobart, Tinderbox, and have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, Best New Poets, and Best of the Net. The opening poem of We Were More than Kindling, “Promise to Recede” won the 2018 Prism Review Poetry Contest. Jessica was awarded an MFA in poetry at the University of New Orleans, and won an Academy of American Poets award, the Maxine and Joseph Cassin Prize for poetry thesis, and also worked as associate poetry editor for Bayou Magazine. Jessica then earned a Master’s of Community and Regional Planning from the University of Oregon, focused on strategies to enhance organizational, economic, and community resilience, and won the American Planning Association (APA) Academic Achievement Award. Jessica has worked as an urban planner, educator, GIS marketer, curriculum developer, and graduate writing consultant. She is a mental health advocate, trauma survivor, and a straight-passing queer, who spends her spare time doting on her angelic friends, handsome partner, and ridiculous cats.

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