Beautiful Zero

Beautiful Zero

“These poems get under your skin and stay there.” —JIM MOORE
Select Format

Incantatory, intimate, and incendiary, the poems in this award-winning debut collection—selected by Dana Levin as the winner of the 2015 Lindquist & Vennum Prize for Poetry—are filled with explosive wit and humor like “a knife you don’t see coming.”

A kaleidoscopic intelligence flows through Beautiful Zero, embracing forms of culture high and low. Poems about Shark Week and college football sit beside biting critiques of modern war. A series of poems set in a Kaiser Permanente hospital tear into the world of privatized health care while simultaneously charting a story of love in the face of catastrophe. Yet even at her most surreal, Jennifer Willoughby always finds the pulsing heart at the core of the poem. She embraces what she cannot understand about both the world and herself because, after all, “Nothing is as random as they say it is. / You were born the weirdo that you are.”

Publish Date
5.5 × 8.5 × 0.25 in
4 oz

Jennifer Willoughby

Jennifer Willoughby is the recipient of the 2015 Lindquist & Vennum Prize for Poetry for her debut collection, Beautiful Zero, selected by Dana Levin. She lives in Minneapolis, MN and works as a freelance advertising copywriter.

Praise and Prizes

  • Beautiful Zero’s speakers tumble and swerve as they urgently try to inhabit and describe the contours of being strange and alive in our electrified now. There’s a hint of dread, apprehension, to the speakers’ searches for connection and understanding, but the book’s primary argument seems to be for beauty, joy, surprise, release. To read Beautiful Zero is to follow a pack of holy fools right off a cliff―but there’s a buoy in the sea at bottom, a life preserver, a raft.”

    Dana Levin
  • “I could not believe my good luck—on a chilly grey day—to find such a reckless gem of a writer. It was more than I deserved. But I’ll take it. I’ll take the sideways entry into meaning; the ability to say ‘so sue me’; the demonstration that we have nothing to lose. Jennifer Willoughby gets out in front of language, catching it off guard, creating striking thought systems under the skin. These poems are effortless formations of spontaneity.”

    Washington Independent Review of Books
  • “Astonishing. These poems get under your skin and stay there. Oh, and did I mention how funny they are? We should all pray to have Jennifer Willoughby sitting next to us at the next boring meeting we have to attend, whispering her poems into our ears. We’ll leave that meeting disoriented, more than a little dazed, and strangely happy: life will never again be quite the same.”

    Jim Moore
  • “As Jennifer Willoughby knows, the cape of childhood is flammable. Here is a poet dying to trust her beginnings even as she puts a quick fuse to American suburban girlhood. These poems sing. They are tight, fierce, grisly, and funny.”

    Joy Katz
  • Beautiful Zero reverberates with our own essential weirdness. Like radio antennae receiving the strange monologue unfurling inside us, these poems are ‘tuned to insular human music trying to get out.’ Jennifer Willoughby’s matter-of-fact tone enriches her eccentric vision and this book persistently surprises with synaptic leaps and dendritic movement. In its search to ‘embrace what it means to be here’ Beautiful Zero makes both the marvelous and quotidian buzz with brilliance.”

    Matt Rasmussen