Charles JensenCharles Jensen (he/him) is the author of the poetry collection Nanopedia and six chapbooks of poems. His third collection, Instructions Between Takeoff and Landing, was published by the University of Akron Press in 2022. He received the 2020 Outwrite Nonfiction Chapbook Award for Cross-Cutting, a diptych of essays that hybridize memoir and film criticism. The City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs designated him a 2019-2020 Cultural Trailblazer, and he is the recipient of the 2018 Zócalo Poetry Prize, a Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Prize, the 2007 Frank O’Hara Chapbook Award, and an Artist’s Project Grant from the Arizona Commission on the Arts. His poetry has appeared in American Poetry Review, Crab Orchard Review, The Journal, New England Review, and Prairie Schooner, and essays have appeared in 45th Parallel, American Literary Review, and The Florida Review. He founded the online poetry magazine LOCUSPOINT, which explored creative work on a city-by-city basis. He hosts The Write Process, a podcast in which one writer tells the story of crafting one work from concept to completion, and with Jovonnie Anaya co-hosts You Wanna Be on Top?, an episode-by-episode retrospective of America’s Next Top Model. He lives in Los Angeles and directs the Writers’ Program at UCLA Extension.

Photo: David Franco

Instructions between Takeoff and Landing

Instructions between Takeoff and Landing is available from Book Shop, Amazon, and other online retailers.

The cover art is by Nathan Adkins.


The poems in Instructions between Takeoff and Landing take place in the middle of myriad journeys: tracking the twin Voyager satellites as they vanish into the unknown, reckoning with a troubling national history, looking back at life lived and forward to the life yet to come. Weaving deft transitions in tone from tender to bombastic, apologetic to brash, and humorous to elegiac, this collection asserts the ways in which even now, we strive to contain Whitmanic multitudes within the constantly shifting borders of self. In the context of a nation hinging on the axes of justice, freedom, self-expression, and tragedy, the voices in these poems reflect on how they both shape and are shaped by the invisible forces and inescapable influences that surround us.


“Charles Jensen’s Instructions Between Takeoff and Landing is a poetic primer for living through these recent years ‘bloated with the arrogance of America.’ From the personal to the political and back (with a delightful Adrienne Rich-infused cento), Jensen’s poems are elegiac, hilarious, and deadly serious. Formally inventive—with a series of ‘story problems’ and quiz questions about what you’ve just read—Jensen provides an immersive experience, a delicately ironic jolt with each poem.” —Denise Duhamel

“In the language of the survey, the memo, the instruction, and the quiz, clarity is of the utmost importance. In Charles Jensen’s new collection, what is clear is the scope of Jensen’s inventiveness and his acute sense of humor, all of which is honed to a razor-sharp tip. With deft lyric and rhetorical skill, the poems interrogate this American quotidian, urging readers to carefully understand the magnitude of what Jensen’s poems ask because there is most certainly going to be an exam at the end. The poems prepare us for the moment when we are tested and when Jensen’s searing blend of humor, inquiry, and speculation show us all the answers.”
—Oliver de la Paz

“Charles Jensen’s Instructions between Takeoff and Landing exists in an exciting juncture between contemporary lyric meditation and experimental impulses. What I mean by this is that his poetry is recognizable, and is understandable and enjoyable, but it also is influenced by other strands of American poetry, more conceptual methods, where one can come across houses ‘festooned with streamers and believers // on the baptism’s slow afternoon,’ but the houses change, and suddenly they’re houses ‘with galaxies within’ that become ‘absolved of all their residents.’ Straight-forward image opens to mystery and formal experiment. This combination is unique to Jensen, as he mixes them in fresh and new ways.”  —John Gallaher


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