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A Machine For Remembering

This collection of poems and photographs began as a way to make sense of the refugee crises in Europe that began in 2015. The journey of writing led to rescuing refugees arriving by boat to Lesvos, Greece, volunteering in a community center for refugees living in Moria refugee camp in 2018, and following refugee routes through Italy, France and Greece in 2016 and 2017.

A Machine for Remembering is a document, a witnessing. It is this generations “The Lice.”

The poems and photographs, along with music from the album The War for the Valley have become a powerful and immersive experimental theater performance. Watch video of performances here.

“It’s an amazing piece of work. I haven’t even been able to put into words my feelings on the collection. I will but for now I’m in awe.” —Rich Buller


A Strange Catechism (2013)

Narrated by a woman standing and turning counterclockwise on the edge of a parking lot, A Strange Catechism is a raw, moving, surprising and heartbreaking collection of poetry.  Inspired by a real life meeting with a woman who had lost everything, the poems form a narrative arc in which grief is redeemed by grace. 

“Reading Justen Ahren’s A Strange Catechism is like following a sweet bird into a thicket, it’s insistent cry leading you further and further into deep woods. Through 'dawns and nights and days', you are taken towards the scene of terrible sorrow.

A young boy grieves the loss of his mother as she grieves the loss of his stillborn brother. The mother wanders, 'kneading the air she put God in'. All the while, the boy follows her through the cold night, tends to her, searches for her. 'Night came with the limp shape of my mother in its arms.”

—Deborah Norrie Jones, 2014