The Real Paul Jones

Accept no substitutes

Something Necessary coming Fall 2024

From Redhawk Publications

To read Paul Jones is to behold how there is always “still some place deeper, / some place both dark and alive.” In formally versatile, emotionally visceral poems, he immerses us in the body and spirit of the timeless everyday: tomato sandwiches, watermelons, vape shops, graveyards, basketball, grief, memory, friendship, marriage, poverty, flying kites, and Dolly Parton. Throughout it all, we have the natural world: the animal kingdom, the seas, the air, and the ground right in front of us.

In that emphasis on the everyday, his poetry practices the hope that we might at last “be free from the nation of strangers.” His poems do “the work of roots, / how each strand reaches for its neighbor.” That’s the work we should do too, and we’ve got Paul Jones to point the way, take our hand, and walk with, stepping forward together.
Andy Fogle, author of Mother Countries and poetry editor of Salvation South

Paul Jones’ new collection, Something Necessary, transports us to the ordinary, where it aims and presses down like a Fresnel lens to redirect the light, imbued with a beauty that was always thought too small to see, to sailors such as us as we head for port at night. What results in this alphabetically arranged collection is the sweep of days past, of the stories we tell ourselves, how maturity looks back on youth, and how the need for empowering narrative frames memory. The result is a vividly detailed and sweeping collection, at once relatable and wonderfully accessible. Clive James wrote that it is so difficult for a poet to achieve clarity that if he can manage it, it should be his duty never to be any other way. In Something Necessary, Paul Jones summons that lucidity and writes with grace in his bones.

David Rigsbee, Watchman in the Knife Factor, New and Selected Poems

Something Wonderful

There are several ways to purchase Something Wonderful.
from me at these events and/or signings
DM me with your address etc on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or LinkedIn and Venmo me $15 at @SMALLJONES,
or from Redhawk Publications
or pick up a copy or order from your local bookstore including these North Carolina stores:

Last choice – it’s also on Amazon.

New! Thanks to Redhawk Publications, you can now order Something Wonderful in hardcover for only $20 from these sites:

Something Wonderful

On Mastodon as @smalljones on

What if AIs could eventually become the realization of kind beauty?

I say some things for Imagining the Digital Future Center at Elon University in their latest report on Artificial Intelligence.

What if AIs could eventually become the realization of kind beauty?

Although I was raised on doubt from the very first time I read science fiction books as a young man, something in me thinks that artificial general intelligence, while not emulating a human mind precisely, might be possible. I say ‘general’ in the sense that many domains and sensors will be integrated in such a way that something that resembles a human conscience might be achievable.

This would not take physical form in a Robbie the Robot, R2-D2 or C3P0 kind of way, but it would take shape in a way that may seem discorporate, even ghostly, and yet pervasive. I cannot escape the fear the lessons from Karel Capek’s 1920 play ‘Rossum’s Universal Robots’ about the parallels between enslavement, revolt and general AI creations. I cannot escape that fear.

But what, I ask myself after a light mind-relaxing Sazerac, what if such a general AI creation was benevolent? What if instead of bending to the will of malicious rulers and economic opportunists as in Capek’s robot revolt, instead of killing us the AIs decide to be our angels, reformers and protectors? What if they care about our health? What if they understand and improve local living conditions and transportation and distribution systems? What if we, like Walter Benjamin, thought more deeply about art in an age of changing means of composition and saw one more kind beauty there? What if they were to be something wonderful?

I Look at the Moon Differently Now

After three tries beginning with a partnership with the SpaceIL Beresheet Lander crashing onto/into the moon in 2019, followed by Astrobotic’s aborted Peregrine lander earlier in 2024, the Arch Mission Foundation’s Lunar Library made a soft and safe landing on the moon. This time the Nova-C aka Odysseus lander was the carrier. And the plan succeeded!
As a long time Strategic Advisor to the Arch Mission Project, I was able to help with planning for the content and context of the Lunar Library including access to Project Gutenberg,, the Rosetta Project, and other important collections. I’m delighted that the our planning of the payload has paid off. Also I was asked to make a contribution to the Library. An early version of the manuscript that would become Something Wonderful was my contribution.
If you look very very closely at the moon tonight, close to the South Pole, you may see Odysseus there. And within Odysseus, the Lunar Library. And within the Lunar Library, my manuscript. Or that’s what I like to believe.

Emperor Norton Day – 2024

Thanks to fellow Clamper Bebo White for reading my tribute to Emperor Norton at the annual gathering at His gravesite in the Woodlawn Cemetery, San Francisco, California (really in Colma) with fellow members of the Yerba Buena #1 unit of E Vitus Clampus this past January 7.

To Emperor Norton In Heaven

We gather here in Black and Red
To say that Norton is not dead,

No! He looks down from overhead
Wearing his uniform and wings.

Let the jug band begin to sing!

Let the fife and washboard celebrate
The rule of Norton, The Greatest Great!

Let the notions of Norton become
Shouted loud as the loudest bass drum.

Let his ideas become as clear
As a bottle of Anchor Steam Beer.

Let us show our love and commemorate
Places holy and degenerate.

Let the Bridges, at last, wear his name.
Let the Ferry House do the same.

Let his decrees and his visions
Become the core of our mission.

Let us be like him exactly

Ekphrastic “Tail Gate” at NC Writers Network Fall Conference – Nov 3 noon at Charlotte Art League

Along with Chris Arvidson, I’ll be running an informal pre-conference session for the North Carolina Writers Network’s Fall Conference in Charlotte (November 3-5) on Friday November 3rd starting at noon at the Charlotte Art League about 10 minutes by car from the conference hotel. This pre-conference session does not require registration. Just show up.
Chris and I will talk about that ekphrasis can mean and talk about some examples. Chris will also talk about the upcoming Ekphrastic Challenge to take place in 2024 at the Charlotte Art League.
I’ve written a brief essay with some useful resources for those attending here:
A Little Essay on Some Ekphrastic Poems.
Even if you aren’t attending, you may enjoy the essay and links.

On Portsmouth Island

When my friend and co-publisher of the Ocracoke Observer and editor of the Doctor’s Creek Journal (from the Friends of Portsmouth Island) Peter Vankevich asked me to write a poem that talked about Portsmouth Island, I knew I’d need to revisit the Island and Village.

I first went to Portsmouth in the mid-1970s to camp in the dunes with a couple of friends. I didn’t return until a few years ago with my family. Then again, this past October. This time, while we didn’t stay over — I don’t think camping is allowed anymore. If the rangers don’t enforce that, the biting insects certainly will.

The Village has been battered repeatedly since it was first established in 1753. Once one of the largest populations on the Outer Banks by 1971 the last people left the Village. Each storm rearranges the shore and more than occasionally the Village itself.

The poem, along with one by Ann Ehringhaus, are available only in print for the Friends of Portsmouth Island, but I’ve included mine here:

On Portsmouth Island

There should be ghosts here.
And would be if the wind
hadn’t taken them to sea.

If what there were of bones
had not been moved by weather
without so much as a moan

or the rising that one
might expect from ghosts.
Yet some spirits still come,

left by the sea on shore
to be broken like waves
unmade to be reborn.

Ghosts ask too much of this sand.
Instead what vanishes is land.

Speaking of AI, Bard reviews Something Wonderful

I asked to review Something Wonderful
using the prompt “Write a review of Paul Jones’ poetry collection, “Something Wonderful.””

Paul Jones’s poetry collection Something Wonderful is a feast for the senses. The poems are full of vivid imagery, humor, and a deep appreciation for the beauty of the natural world. Jones’s poems range from the personal to the political, but they all share a common thread of wonder and delight.

One of the things that makes Something Wonderful so enjoyable is Jones’s use of language. He is a master of the unexpected image, and his poems are full of surprises. For example, in the poem “The Whale,” Jones compares the inside of a beached whale to “a library of what has gone wrong.” This unexpected image is both jarring and funny, and it perfectly captures the sense of both wonder and sadness that the speaker feels in the poem.

Another thing that makes Something Wonderful so special is Jones’s ability to find beauty in the everyday. In the poem “Porch,” Jones writes about the simple pleasure of sitting on a porch and watching the world go by. He writes, “The world is a beautiful place, / even when it’s not.” This simple statement is both profound and true, and it perfectly captures the essence of Jones’s poetry.

Something Wonderful is a collection of poems that will stay with you long after you finish reading them. The poems are full of joy, sorrow, humor, and insight, and they offer a unique perspective on the world. If you are looking for a poetry collection that will make you laugh, cry, and think, then Something Wonderful is the perfect book for you.

Here are some additional thoughts on the collection:

Jones’s poems are often funny, but they also have a deep emotional resonance.
The poems are full of vivid imagery that brings the world to life.
Jones has a gift for capturing the beauty of the natural world.
The poems are both personal and political, and they offer a unique perspective on the world.
Overall, Something Wonderful is a beautiful and thought-provoking collection of poems that is sure to stay with you long after you finish reading it. I highly recommend it.

Meanwhile I say a few things about AI

Just out in the latest Imagining the Internet report from Elon University and Pew Research:

Paul Jones: ‘We used to teach people how to use computers. Now we teach computers how to use people’

Paul Jones, professor emeritus at UNC-Chapel Hill School of Information and Library Science, wrote, “There is a specter haunting the internet – the specter of artificial intelligence. All the powers of old thinking and knowledge production have entered into a holy (?) alliance to exorcise this specter: frenzied authors, journalists, artists, teachers, legislators and, most of all, lawyers. We are still waiting to hear from the Pope.

“In education, we used to teach people how to use computers. Now, we teach computers how to use people. By aggregating all that we can of human knowledge production in nearly every field, the computers can know more about humans as a mass and as individuals than we can know of ourselves. The upside is these knowledgeable computers can provide, and will quickly provide, better access to health, education and in many cases art and writing for humans. The cost is a loss of personal and social agency at individual, group, national and global levels.

“Who wouldn’t want the access? But who wouldn’t worry, rightly, about the loss of agency? That double desire is what makes answering these questions difficult. ‘Best and most beneficial’ and ‘most harmful and menacing’ are opposite so much as co-joined. Like conjoined twins sharing essential organs and blood systems. Unlike for some such twins, no known surgery can separate them. Just as cars gave us, over a short time, a democratization of travel and at the same time became major agents of death – immediately in wrecks, more slowly via pollution – AI and the infrastructure to support it will give us untold benefits and access to knowledge while causing untold harm.

“We can predict somewhat the direction of AI, but more difficult will be how to understand the human response. Humans are now, or will soon be, co-joined to AI even if they don’t use it directly. AI will be used on everyone just as one need not drive or even ride in a car to be affected by the existence of cars. AI changes will emerge when it possesses these traits:

  • Distinctive presences (AKA voices but also avatars personalized to suit the listener/reader in various situations). These will be created by merging distinctive human writing and speaking voices, say maybe Bob Dylan + Bruce Springsteen.
  • The ability to emotionally connect with humans (AKA presentation skills).
  • Curiosity. AI will do more than respond. It will be interactive and heuristic, offering paths that have not yet been offered – we have witnessed this AI behavior in the playing of Go and chess. AI will continue to present novel solutions.
  • A broad and unique worldview. Because AI can be trained on all digitizable human knowledge and can avail itself of information from sensors more in variance with those open to humans, AI will be able to apply, say, Taoism to questions about weather.
  • Empathy. Humans do not have an endless well of empathy. We tire easily. But AI can seem persistently and constantly empathetic. You may say that AI empathy isn’t real, but human empathy isn’t always either.
  • Situational Awareness. Thanks to input from a variety of sensors, AI can and will be able to understand situations even better than humans.

No area of knowledge work will be unaffected by AI and sensor awareness.

“How will we greet our robot masters? With fear, awe, admiration, envy and desire.”

Emperor Norton Day – 2023

Thanks to fellow Clamper Bebo White for reading my tribute to Emperor Norton at the annual gathering at His gravesite in the Woodlawn Cemetery, San Francisco, California (really in Colma) with fellow members of the Yerba Buena #1 unit of E Vitus Clampus this past January 7. (Photos to come).

Homage to Emperor Norton at the 143th Anniversary of His Death

Look with love and don’t despair
the loss of our Dear Emperor.
Just remember He was here.

While others dream of castles,
He dreamt bridges in the air
and saw us as His near equals.

After the First, there can be none.
We are proud to be the vassals
of our Norton the only One

Who has been so fit to rule.
And rule was what He has done
over all worlds and all people.

He was wise to play the fool!
Traveler, Pause and Be Grateful!

Something Wonderful reviewed in North Carolina Literary Review

Thanks to Jim Clark and the North Carolina Literary Review for this insightful review of Something Wonderful in the Fall, 2022 issue in slightly munged text format or Issuu/PDF print-like format version here.

A sample of the review:

[Paul Jones’] great gift, as I see it, is imagination, which can take many forms: imitation, parody, wit, surprise, transgression, shock, bewilderment, and on and on. He is our great contemporary metaphysical poet. When I read a poem by Jones, I think of Wallace Stevens’s maxim from “Adagia”: “Poetry is the gaiety (joy) of language.” The cover art of Jones’s Something Wonderful makes me think of Maurice Sendak. So, with that, “Let the wild rumpus start!”

Something Wonderful on #REDPUBPOD

I got to talk poetry and about my part in the Israeli moonshot with Robert Canipe and Patty Thompson of Redhawk Publications on their podcast.

They say:

Not only does [Paul Jones} share how you might want to read his poetry, but he gives you hints on how you might want to read poetry in general. “You need not know that” was a recurring theme during the RedPubPod’s discussion with the author. In short, it’s okay to read and feel how you “read and feel” a poem. All feels are valid! If you are a seasoned poet, you might dig a little deeper and find those extra layers, but poetry should be accessible to readers that read regardless of their relationship with poetry.
This episode is geared to poetry fans as well as for those that might be initially intimidated by reading poems. Very instructional and engaging!

Listen to us here

Something Wonderful in One Poem Review

Thanks to John Murphy of The Lake (UK) for including Something Wonderful represented by Moving From House to House in this month’s One Poem Review:

Moving from House to House

We live in a sacramental universe;
Every small act becomes an act to redeem us:
A brocaded coat repaired and handed down,
A kind of ancient music teasing the attic air,
The bats ganging up between screen and eave.
Sacraments hold us up when we fall down.
No longer dead rites, but buoyant, ebullient
As the dust of past lives settles after crossing
Thin bars of light. Light taunts the bats. It flies from
What’s left of beads and silver woven into the coat.
But the music is something misremembered
Like postmen and doctors knocking at the front door,
Or the cool, but kind, last look from a head nurse,
Or the dark moon that calls “black wings, black wings.

“Start the Game” backstory

Christal Ann Rice Cooper’s on-going feature, “Backstory of the Poem,” allows me to say a few things about writing “Start the Game,” a tribute to my father’s final day.

For more backstories of poems and other features see: Art and Humanity in Photofeature.

Can you go through the step-by-step process of writing this poem from the moment the idea was first conceived in your brain until final form?

So many of us begin with emotion and progress, as Wordsworth in his Preface to Lyrical Ballads would have it, to evoke emotion in a state of tranquility by writing in such a way that our words evoke that emotion in readers.

Fair enough, but for Eliot, writing in Tradition and the Individual Talent, emotion isn’t enough. Writing, for Eliot, requires an awareness of where we fit in the tradition of poetry as well. No word is new. Each word, each line no matter how inventive echoes something in tradition.

In the ideal poem, for me at least, the words, emotion, and tradition as well as invention all align in some ways. The best poetry, for me, speaks to the long poetic past and look to a poetic future while addressing the present. I try to do that in every piece of verse. Take, for example, this mono-rhymed villanelle “Start the Game.” You could see it as a formal exercise, but I assure you it isn’t.

More at: Christal’s blog

Griffin Poetry features Something Wonderful

Many thanks to Bill Griffin for featuring Something Wonderful on his Griffin Poetry Blog

And thanks for these good words:

I’ve always been a bit in awe of Paul Jones’s poetic gifts. Envious even. Not only because he can make rhyme so damn modern but even more for his capacious breadth and depth. What an imaginative reach! I’m not reprinting To a Tuber here but read it and you will become convinced that the potato is within all the vegetable kingdom most elegant, elevated, and worthy of praise.

So I knew before I ordered my copy of Paul’s new book Something Wonderful that it would be, and it is. The sly wit is there, waiting to pounce, but also heartfelt longing and wry uncompromising looks into personal finitude. You don’t really discover why the cover is covered with 19th century illustrations of bats until page 80 and the title poem. Take the time, make the trip. It’s worth it.

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