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Work Samples

DIAGRAM __ Hilary S Jacqmin.pdf

These two poems, "Drunks" and "Jughead, Mid-Life," which appear in my book Missing Persons, were first published by DIAGRAM.

PDF icon DIAGRAM __ Hilary S Jacqmin.pdf


"Coupling," which appears in my book Missing Persons, was first published in 32 Poems. Of it, Sarah Blake wrote:

"I love poems that play with a reader’s expectations.

I’m reminded of Donald Barthelme’s 'The School' when I read Hilary S. Jacqmin’s 'Coupling.' In what might be the sweet, innocent setting of two people who have just moved in together, there is a butcher block 'spiked…with knives' and a hyacinth the color of a bruise that 'die[s] within a week.' There are fights and Jewish law is broken. Where will this go? Will it end with sex like 'The School' almost does? Is a gerbil about to enter? Or were those details foreshadowing a death, a murder? Are we coming to a moment that’s sacrosanct or sacrilegious?

The quiet build, the laying out of specifics, allows for almost anything. What will the poet do when the poet can do anything? This is how the reader comes to the last stanza. The first line has 'hands pal[ing] with salt,' how hands might pale in death. But from onion rings! Of all things. I’m not sure there can be lighter fare for a poem than onion rings. They’re downright playful. So this is the most death we will get, these paling hands. I’m at least sure of that at this point. But still I’m not sure what’s to come. Sex is definitely still a possibility.

And then the poem ends with: 'the windows cast / an iceberg on our bedroom wall.' Wooooo. What an opening up. An expanse. It’s not sex but it takes place in the bedroom. It’s not death but an iceberg doesn’t exactly suggest life. There is hopelessness and hope in that image. Even if the hope is only that they are still together to see the iceberg, to be getting drunk and eating onion rings, together. And isn’t the beginning of something always difficult? It doesn’t mean things can’t still end well.

As a reader, I’m not sure if I should be hoping things go well from here or not for this couple. But that doesn’t bother me—it actually frees me from considering their future at all. Instead I think of them inside this moment. I relish this moment, creepy and stark. And mostly I’m enjoying it, taking my time in it, because I never could have imagined the poem arriving here myself. I needed the poet for that. She built my expectations and tempered them, met them, and then broke the poem open over them, and tonight I’ll be imagining icebergs on my walls."

PDF icon Coupling.pdf

Day of the Dead by Hilary S. Jacqmin - passagesnorth.pdf

"Day of the Dead," which is included in my book Missing Persons, appeared in both Passages North (an American magazine) and Oxford Poetry (an English magazine). For several years, I worked at Harvard Divinity School, which was located just across the street from Harvard's Peabody Museum.

PDF icon Day of the Dead by Hilary S. Jacqmin - passagesnorth.pdf

The Trial.pdf

The Trial, which appears in Missing Persons, was first published in Subtropics. It is based on a real experience I had serving on a jury trial in Baltimore City.

PDF icon The Trial.pdf


About Hilary

Baltimore City

Hilary Jacqmin's picture
Hilary S. Jacqmin earned her BA from Wesleyan University, her MA from Johns Hopkins University, and her MFA from the University of Florida. Her first book of poems, Missing Persons, was published by Waywiser Press in Spring 2017. She lives in Baltimore City, where she is an associate production editor at Johns Hopkins University Press and an editor at Baltimore Review. Her work has appeared in 32 Poems, DIAGRAM, Best New Poets 2011, Subtropics, PANK, concis, Painted Bride Quarterly, The... more

Book: Missing Persons

The opening poems of Missing Persons, Hilary S. Jacqmin's lyrical first collection, explore the streetcar suburbs of Northern Ohio through a series of comic and caustic vignettes. The book's second half intersects with the larger world to consider questions of empire, loss, and autonomy. Moving through time and between places and personas, the poems shift from imperial India to post-meltdown Chernobyl to Sabbathday Lake, the last active Shaker community. An abandoned sideshow fat lady mourns her lost love. The vanished poet Weldon Kees, presumed dead, reemerges in the frozen Midwest. And an alienated Jughead Jones searches for meaning in modern-day, food-obsessed Japan. Richly detailed, linguistically deft, and employing both formal and free verse, Missing Persons is a dazzling debut.

For more information, or to read additional excerpts, go to

Praise for Missing Persons

  • Missing Persons is one of the best debut poetry collections that I’ve read in years. Jacqmin’s poems are richly varied in syntax, diction, and form. They’re also funny, and at times surprisingly hard-edged—but whether Jacqmin is writing about dry drunks, a fastidious Latin teacher, or a grown-up Jughead adrift in Tokyo, she never allows herself to affect an attitude of being superior to her subject matter. Instead, she patiently, faithfully seeks out real mysteries and works to articulate them in all their strangeness.” – James Arthur
  • “I admire the intelligent ultra talk of Hilary Jacqmin’s virtuosic and revealing poems. A full life is lived on these pages, and it flickers with light and dark.” – Henri Cole
  • “In Missing Persons, memory is a cabinet of curiosities filled with tiny figures carved from bone, scimitars, ticking oven timers, sugar skulls. These are poems that teach us how the ordinary may be transformed; a nightgown stained with rabbit urine becomes ‘yellow shantung,’ a beer gut ‘softly beautiful,’ women’s bodies ‘curved like wine bottles.’ Jacqmin has a particular gift for portraits in miniature. Young loves, Girl Scouts, sex ed teachers, a father, a mother—all are rendered lovely and interesting through the delicate treatment of the imagination. And, as with any wunderkammer, we want to return to the glimmering rooms of these poems again and again, discovering each time we visit something new to hold and behold.” – Jehanne Dubrow
  • “Jacqmin’s poetry displays a wonderfully rich diction that conveys her keen eye for defining detail. Always in the mix there is her agile wit, typically gentle but mischievous too. Sometimes things are darker, but then compassionate too. Jacqmin’s world ranges from a mostly predictable upper Midwest, to arresting scenes in art and literature, to the Russia of Chernobyl, to the seaport dives of downtown Baltimore. In all of these settings there are characters who choose their paths by accident or misconception, bumping their ways along as we do and continuing in ways we admire. There is a wised-up kindness and exuberance to this work that makes Jacqmin’s poems the best of company, well-spoken guests always invited back.” – Wyatt Prunty

Minerva Platform Poetry Project

MINERVA / Series II: Architecture curates poetry PDFs that have a perceived affinity with architectonics.

Hilary, on houses & gardens

I have been drawn to the topic of country houses and gardens for a long time, initially because of their visual splendour. Growing up, I made frequent visits to Stan Hywet Hall in Akron, Ohio, a Tudor Revival mansion built between 1912 and 1915 for the founder of the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company. I loved Stan Hywet’s ornate architecture and landscaped grounds, which include a walled English garden complete with reflecting pool. The life of the estate seemed present, distilled somehow into the rust-stippled screen door at the back of the Great Hall or the rustling birch tree allée. Still, I would imagine how magnificent the house must have been when it was full of people.

As an undergraduate English major at Wesleyan University, inspired by classes on Gothic and Victorian literature, I became fascinated by garden history and the complex way that houses and gardens have been used as sites of meaning and control. As an MA student in Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins University and an MFA student in poetry at the University of Florida, I wrote numerous poems, many of them set in England, about houses and gardens. These poems were based on extensive research, some of which I conducted on-site. I found that visits to historic houses and gardens invariably inspired me to write when I had exhausted other subjects.

I hope that these four pieces succeed as poems of both critique and longing.

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