Books distributed by the Chicago Distribution Center

184 pages | 5.5 x 8.5 | © 2024

ISBN (pbk): 978-1-946724-75-5 

Pre-order Only
Will publish May 2024


A Mining Daughter on Making Home

Jessica E. Johnson

In the weeks after her first child is born, Jessica E. Johnson receives an email from her mother that contains artifacts of the author’s early childhood: scans of Polaroids and letters her mother wrote in mountain west mining camps and ghost towns—places without running water, companions, or help. Awash in love and restlessness, Johnson begins to see how the bedrock images of her isolated upbringing have stayed with her, even when she believed she was removing herself from their logic.

As she copes with the swirling pressures of parenting, teaching at an urban community college, and a partnership shaped by chronic illness, Johnson starts digging through her mother’s keepsakes and the histories of the places her family passed through, uncovering the linked misogyny and disconnection that characterized her childhood world—a world with uncomfortable echoes in the present and even in the act of writing itself. The resulting journey encompasses Johnson’s early memories, the story of the earth told in the language of geology, bits of vivid correspondence, a mothering manual from the early twentieth century, and the daily challenges of personal and collective care in a lonesome-crowded Pacific wonderland. Mettlework traces intergenerational failures of homemaking, traveling toward presence and relationship amid the remains of extractive industry and unsustainable notions of family.


Tell others about Mettlework.

About the Author

Jessica E. Johnson is the author of the book-length poem Metabolics, the chapbook In Absolutes We Seek Each Other, and is a contributor to the anthology Cascadia Field Guide: Art, Ecology, Poetry. Her poems, essays, and reviews have appeared in Paris Review, Tin House, New Republic, Poetry Northwest, River Teeth, Diagram, Annulet Poetics, Southeast Review, and Sixth Finch. She teaches at Portland Community College and cohosts the Constellation Reading Series at Tin House.
Jessica E. Johnson
Photo Credit: Becca Blevins

Praise for Jessica E. Johnson

“Full of multi-species encounters, [Metabolics] enacts the discontinuous and porous nature of selfhood and of being more than what can be contained within the confines of a body. With a keen perception and a lyricism that penetrates like light, Metabolics is a collection that will possess you.”
—Janice Lee, author of Separation Anxiety and Imagine a Death

“Johnson metabolizes the strange rituals of daily life into poetic language. With a ʻvast, provisional body,’ she moves between the home and the world, touching and consuming the real (plastic, cats, trees, devices) and the virtual (the internet, social networks, texts) in entangled ʻcycles within cycles.’”
—Craig Santos Perez, author of Habitat Threshold

“What does it mean to mother now? To teach? To live in a body at the edge of a forest that is ready to burn? Each prose poem in Jessica Johnson’s Metabolics is a window into these questions, and yet each poem captures much more than a moment in time. Johnson’s poetics requires us to confront our troubled present. . . . What a marvelous book.”
—Tyler Mills, author of Hawk Parable

Metabolics is utterly its own unique experience, one that will leave the reader inspired to re-examine and re-engage the deep strangeness of our daily lives. I am so grateful to have read this book.”
—Elizabeth Bradfield, author of Toward Antarctica and Theorem

“These poems [in Metabolics] . . . are about mothering, and they are about mothering attentiveness. Through such care, language transforms into ʻCO2 wafting into an open leaf pore,’ and we breathe again.”
—Eleni Sikelianos, author of Your Kingdom

“Johnson’s Metabolics . . . manages a trifecta of sharp commentary, deep observation, and intimate meditation. It doesn’t let itself off the hook, but puts pressure on the ways a well-intentioned individual feeds a dysfunctional system, gesture by gesture.”
—Irene Cooper, EcoTheo Review

Metabolics, a gripping, felt collection littered with beautiful phrasings and insights, is grounded in those quiet, wordless moments of satiety that take us by surprise and keep us rooted to the world and to ourselves.”
—Ana C.H. Silva, MER

“Thinking about life simply in terms of biology is a kind of comfort to the speaker, a way to meditate, temporarily not to sink under the dailiness. [Metabolics] makes the case that art need not be so far separated from science. Can’t writing also be more natural, like breath?”
—Joan Biddle

“[Metabolics] unfolds the way a life unfolds, with unfinished thoughts and lack of punctuation, one detail after another interrupted by moments of self-doubt and irritation, clarity and confusion, beauty and fear. . . . All of these moments, for this reader, provide instant and immediate commiseration, a nodding of the head and an opening of the heart, a knowledge that we are not alone.”
—Donna Vorreyer, RHINO Reviews

Metabolics does what prose poems often do best: capture a moment of the mundane world”
Amy Bobeda, Full Stop