Laura Jaramillo: Making Water | Futurepoem | Fall 2022

Laura Jaramillo’s newest poetry collection, Making Water, is a probing, pensive journey through life’s dichotomies, pressing readers to ask what we can learn from witnessing the transformational impact of time and memory.

Jaramillo, who holds a PhD in critical theory from Duke University, roots much of this journey in Durham. Fans of the Eno River will find themselves on a melancholic and thought-provoking exploration of what it has to offer in its depths, decay, and duplexity.

But as much as water plays a central, ever-moving role, guiding the reader through the book’s 15 sections, it is the way Jaramillo plays with opposites—city vs. nature, life vs. decay, warm vs. cold—that grounds the reader. She leaves the reader feeling that these antipodes are more similar than binary: that sometimes life bleeds with death through decay and that the masculine and feminine can coexist. She walks through city streets and nature trails in the same breath, referencing this duality as “the double face of Gemini.” Readers may feel like they cross the Eno itself, touching different shorelines—only to remember, in the end, it’s all one river.

Jaramillo, who is originally from Queens but now is based in the Triangle and co-runs the performance and reading series Paradiso, offers vivid language and plays with rhythm throughout this latest book, perhaps mimicking the flow of water itself. Her previous releases include Material Girl (Subpress, 2012) and B (Violaceous euphoRia, 2020). At times, the writing is vibrant in its occasional gruesomeness, dancing between magical realism and anthropomorphism before sliding cooly back into naturalism.

This duality, the feel of moving water throughout the writing, reflects the text’s inherent tension. Jaramillo is unafraid to wield language, and it lands impactfully. Responsibility and sovereignty feel like weights that she must survive as time marches on—but pain is also a source of energy. Indeed, this pain is part of the paradox, reflecting the juxtaposition of light and dark: the life-giving friendships with an expiration date (as in “Autoimmunity”). The language isn’t afraid: “Your/laughter sets like a stain.”

Aging, illness, and borders are themes that she confidently embeds in melancholy and tension. Maybe that’s why she urges readers to “let your body go like water”—and that’s part of the magic of this collection. There are no clear answers here, and the only thing close to an ending is the powerful instruction in “Warmachine” to “multiply the future by one hundred, then divide by history.”

But a clean ending wouldn’t make sense here anyway: Making Water tells a story of tension, yes, but also the story of cycles and continual transformations in both life and nature. The river empties into the ocean. Readers may even take this dark and beautiful book with them on their next hike to the quarry and embrace the call, as she writes, that “play is the memory of freedom.” We can read in nature and be reminded that everyday life reflects dimension and the passing of time.

The lichen tells us; the shadows of dusk remind us; the “low magic” of riverbeds and animals are constant signs. As you track Jaramillo’s journey through cycles of life and change, the earthy, visceral language of Making Water will illuminate your way.

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