We the Jury
Winner of the 2022 Colorado Book Award for Poetry
A boy asks his father what it means to die; a poet wonders whether we can truly know another’s thoughts; a man tries to understand how extreme violence and grace can occupy the same space. These are the questions Wayne Miller tackles in We the Jury: the hard ones, the impossible ones.
From an academic dinner party disturbing in its crassness and disaffection to a family struggling to communicate gently the permanence of death, Miller situates his poems in dilemma. He faces moments of profound discomfort, grief, and even joy with a philosopher’s curiosity, a father’s compassion, and an overarching inquiry at the crossroads of ethics and art: what is the poet’s role in making sense of human behavior? A bomb crater–turned–lake “exploding with lilies,” a home lost during the late-aughts housing crash—these images and others, powerful and resonant, attempt to answer that question.
Candid and vulnerable, Miller sits with us while we puzzle: we all wish we knew what to tell our children about death. But he also pushes past this and other uncertainties, vowing—and inviting us—to “expand our relationship / with Death,” and with every challenging, uncomfortable subject we meet. In the face of questions that seem impossible to answer, We the Jury offers not a shrug, but curiosity, transparency, a throwing of the arms wide.