Public Figures by Jena Osman
(Wesleyan Poetry Series)

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Public Figures is an essay-poem with photographs and text that begins with a playful thought experiment: statues of people in public spaces have eyes, but what are they looking at? To answer that question, Jena Osman sets up a camera to track the gaze of a number of statues in Philadelphia—mostly 19th century military figures carrying weapons. How does their point of view differ from our own? And how does it compare, say, to the point of view of other watchful military figures, such as drone pilots? In this book, Osman combines the histories behind these statues with poetic narratives that ask us to think about our own relational positions, and how our own everyday gaze may be complicit with the gun-sights of war. Public Figures illustrates how history is transformed, and even erased, by monuments and other public records of events. Through poetry, those histories can be made visible again. Check for the online reader’s companion at

About Jena Osman

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JENA OSMAN is the author of three previous books, including The Network, winner of the 2009 National Poetry Series Award, and The Character, winner of the 1998 Barnard College New Women Poets Prize. She teaches in the MFA Creative Writing Program at Temple University.
Published September 26, 2012 by Wesleyan. 88 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction. Non-fiction

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The fourth volume from Osman (The Network) employs that newly prevalent form, the long lyric essay, with photographs and bits of verse put in: Osman considers the monuments and statues (most of them soldierly) in Philadelphia, where she lives, and imagines their points of view—how they see thei...

Oct 22 2012 | Read Full Review of Public Figures (Wesleyan Poet...

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