This is poetry of uncommon reach. The title poem, perhaps the best
in the collection, uses language as metaphor to plead for both the
local and the world-embracing; the strait way and the generous, as
modes that interpenetrate. "In Kurdistan," another extraordinary poem,
wields a knife in almost every line, the traditional weapon of the East
transformed again and again, at last becoming the double-winged
vision of peace. "Bamboo" tells a story of scarcity and human fear
that we need to hear now. There is both range (love poems, serious
metaphysical speculation, poems of wit and irony) and unity here.
I welcome this serious first gathering of poems by a poet whose eye
is clear and whose heart is wide.
The title poem of this group is outstanding, a refreshing surprise. It
speaks to our commonality beyond national boundaries and it is full
of precise details that charm the reader. Other wonderful surprises
erupt in "Artichokes,"
"I Recall That Li Po Considered Death Final,"
"Bamboo," and "Vanity of Sorrow." This poet has a firm ability to call
on closely observed facts--the twisted strands of a luffa gourd, the
slime of algae dripping from a moose's back, the shape and heft of an
artichoke--and use them as springboards for the imagination.
Paul Jones writes like no one else I've read--with the voice of an entirely
lucid and truthful oracle but an oracle whose messages complicate
and darken as we read their lines. It's been a long time since I felt so
literally captured yet fed by poems so familiar, so strange and strong.