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Justin Jannise: How to be Better by Being Worse

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Justin Jannise turns the self-help manual on its head in his Poulin Prize-winning debut collection. His poems flout, subvert, question, and ignore the rules with exploratory energy. Queer experiences are celebrated—from crushing on long-dead, sad-eyed poets to drag divas dancing at Halloween parties—gender constructs are questioned, and familial transgressions are laid bare for the world. 


Delightfully modulating between flippant, sincere, and back again, How to be Better by Being Worse freely indulges in harmless wickedness as its speaker grows in self-awareness, slowly learning to let go of inherited shame while continuing to seek self-forgiveness for the harms he has caused the outside world.


 “There’s an abundance of good poetry being written today. Poetry that exhibits good style, exercises good technique, and evokes good sentiments. But Jannise has done more than write just another good book of poetry—he’s written a great book, and beyond that, quite a memorable one.” —Richard Blanco, from the Foreword


Justin Jannise will be in conversation with BOA Editions Publisher and Executive Director Peter Conners.


Justin Jannise is the author of How to be Better by Being Worse, winner of the 19th annual A. Poulin, Jr. Poetry Prize. His poems have appeared in Best New PoetsBest of the NetCopper NickelElectric LitHobartLana TurnerNew Ohio ReviewSplit Lip Magazine, and Yale Review, among others. His honors include the 2009 Albert Stanburrough Cook Prize for Poetry from Yale University, the Inprint Marion Barthelme Prize, the Inprint Verlaine Prize in Poetry, and a Teaching-Writing Fellowship from the University of Iowa. A first-generation college student, he earned his BA from Yale University and attended the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Now finishing his PhD in Literature and Creative Writing at the University of Houston, Justin served a two-year term as Editor-in-Chief of Gulf Coast.