Front cover of Softly Undercover, by Hanae Jonas, featuring an image of light-colored pottery shards arranged in concentric circles on a green background with shadows.

Softly Undercover

Hanae Jonas

72 pp. 5.5 x 8.5

Pub Date: February, 2024

Subjects: Poetry

Series: The Journal Charles B. Wheeler Poetry Prize

Imprint: Mad Creek

Order Paperback $16.95 $13.56 Save 20% and get free shipping  ISBN: 978-0-8142-5894-1
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“In Softly Undercover, lyric’s devotional mode is both thrall and throe: the powerlessness and pain of being in relation to a higher power, of being ‘a constant / hostage to mystery.’ These masterful poems make stringent, witty music. ‘Three times removed / from any grip on home,’ Hanae Jonas writes, ‘which place is the real life?’ Instead of answers, the stark beauty of these lyrics offers just enough succor to sustain the ardent devotion of us, ‘the earthly alone.’” —Brian Teare

“Language itself is the protagonist in these spell-woven poems, simultaneously soliciting and fending off the sharp outlines we mistake for understanding. ‘I’m coming down with morning,’ says their speaker, as though it were an illness. Hanae Jonas is after nothing less than the springs of consciousness here and firmly turns her back on paraphrasables. A bold and absorbing debut.” —Linda Gregerson

Softly Undercover is a stunning collection that carefully shapes isolation, sorrow, fracture, and uncertainty into original imagery and sonic nuance, inducing a breathlessness with its candid, valiant pauses and admissions. It casts society’s procedures and the haunted flourishes of the soul in remarkable light.” —Marcus Jackson, Charles B. Wheeler Poetry Prize judge

From its opening insistence on “not love but procedure,” Hanae Jonas’s Softly Undercover explores the possibilities and limitations of ritual and repetition, asking what it means to believe and see clearly. Formally rangy poems map out territories of devotion and divination, contrasting the realm of mystery, dreams, and symbols with the alienation of the mundane. Against a backdrop of intimate relationships, small towns, rural landscapes, and claustrophobic interiors, Jonas casts her gaze on isolation, nostalgia, repression, visibility, and loss while examining the desire “to go anywhere more docile / than facts.” Animated by uncertainty, this elliptical and lyrical debut dwells in the pleasures and hazards of illusion.

Author Photo

Hanae Jonas is the author of the chapbook Lowlands. She was born in Vermont and lives in Los Angeles.



The View

Ritual for Spelling Silence

Bluff Line

Apparent Threshold


As Above



Then the Night in Me Woke Up

Luminous Crisis



Ritual in the Aftermath

Dead Lexicon

Cursory Details

What Beauty

With Stones as Their Witness

Private Party

Everything That Acts Is Actual

Version with Sudden End

Against Ritual

Venus Retrograde



Body of Evidence

Stinging Nettle

The Glow


Ritual for a Back Room

Imagining a Forest by the Sea


It Says Nothing

Imagining a Forest by the Sea




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