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spacer.gif   MYSTICAL PEN: WAYNE ALLEN JONES
Posted by : cj on Sunday, December 05, 2004 - 10:08 PM
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Chicago Poetry Reviews: Click Headlines Stone Works
By Wayne Allen Jones
Reviewed by C. J. Laity


You might have seen (recent newcomer to Chicago) Wayne Allen Jones read his poetry at Coffee Chicago on a Friday night. I've seen him read a few times, but it wasn't until I saw him read his work in a "Rookie Showcase" at Chopin Theater that I pricked up my ears. Jones made a deliberate attempt that afternoon to breath more life into the performance of his work, and suddenly the same words he had been reading, which had escaped my short attention span in the past, came to life. So I decided to pick up one of his books, Stone Works (Fractal Edge Press), to see what my wandering mind had been missing all this time. I must admit, I was impressed by his work. So, with a formal hello, I'd like to officially welcome Wayne Allen Jones into the Chicago Poetry Scene by adding these seven stones to the monument he is building with his poetry.


1. Wayne Allen Jones grabs hold of dangerous subjects and handles them as confidently as a mason handling bricks.

glistening dumbly
from the upraised arch
and needle
ready to burn
beneath my carapace
hangs the poison drop


(from "Scorpion Dance")


2. Jones' poetic eye is not an omniscient one; in his poetry there is always room for doubt.

But my own doubt rises. I imagine
that, just as his life winked out,
he glimpsed the miscalculation.
His theatrical gesture fell short,
and he felt denied even at the last --
his fiery gesture lost in black smoke.


(from "The Crash")


3. Jones does not flinch at the darkness; to the contrary, he opens the door and invites us into his "darkened room."

Above the school, bats
wheel, evenly spread --
an oval track at dusk.
No feast -- no erratic
radar flight of a hunt.
A collective swoop --
a plane truth with
one hieroglyphic dive
at the tower on each lap.


(from "Koyaanisqatsi")


4. Jones' work is filled with similar metaphors. Everything unpredictable and powerful can be found within his images water.

There are light and air enough
along this fractured skyline
for any wild idea to take hold --
even without much water.


(from "Canyon Lake")

or

The water keeps the flat bottom high --
surface tension like a covenant --
buoyancy like a state of grace --
weight suspended like sin over the abyss.


(from "The Boat Absolved")


5. Wayne Allen Jones has the expertise of someone who studied English at Harvard, though his work is as fresh as someone who studied poetry in the saloons of Chicago.

Fixed thus, this moment in its splendor
made us, on the granite shore, so dull
that our loss of a postcard snapshot
fit like a soap skin bubble around
the hollow of our inconsequence.


(from "In The Moment")


6. Stone Works is a quest for perfection, and an admission that perfection does not exist.

"I'm looking for perfect silence,
but it eludes me like perfect darkness.
It's not in mines, mountains, calm seas --
there's always that damned interface of air
and everything else -- nous and noumena --
the rough breath of the world against all things."


(from "Cage In Pursuit of Silence")


7. Stone Works is a testament to how fragile life is. From the rubble Jones finds the building blocks of beauty. Like building a wall with separate stones, unity equals strength. However, if there is a moral among these poems as a collection, is that even though something seems as solid as a stone, time allows something as fluid as water to possess more strength. It is the same among poets. It is as if Jones is trying to say, don't allow time to erode what you believe in.

But even when the murals
are cleaned, catalogued,
and deciphered, what message
will they find in the crack
between past and present?
What can they read into the time
wound inside the pigment
that turns to dust?


(from "Color In Ruins")


--C. J. Laity, reporting the poetry news.

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Note: You might have seen (recent newcomer to Chicago) Wayne Allen Jones read his poetry at Coffee Chicago on a Friday night.

 
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