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.
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
Yes, I’ve moved my Publications list to a Page. It can be found here.
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.
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 order from your local bookstore
Last choice – it’s also on Amazon.
At 7 pm EDT on September 1, 2020, I will be the featured poet reading with the Nexus Poets (largely in New Bern, NC). An open mic follows so follow me over on Zoom and bring a contribution of your own.
I will be reading these poems which have been released online in the past few months:
Ode to a Certain Feeling of Optimism from Red Fez
At Seventy from Red Fez
Beach at Corolla, NC from South Writ Large
My Roommate Jeoffry from Light Poetry Magazine
Cicadas from Grand Little Things
Slugs from Vox Poetica
Pigs Eyes from Unbroken
The Trouble with Macaques from Triggerfish Critical Review
Skinnydip in the Millpond from Speckled Trout Review
In Praise of Small Disturbances from 2River 25th Anniversary
Moving from House to House from Broadkill Review (nominated for Best of the Net)
Accepted for future publication:
Triggerfish Critical Review.
smoke fire. July, 2022.
Verse in Which I Should Probably Be More Charitable Towards the Gift of a Book of Mediocre Verse. TBA. 2022.
2020 Ekphrastic Poetry Book from Craven Arts Council and Gallery.
After A Sudden Blow. Print only sometime in 2022.
Available for Reading Now:
Against Desirelessness. In O.Henry. January 2022.
Against Desirelessness. In PineStraw. January 2022.
(First publication in Snapdragon: a Journal of Arts and Healing, November 2019).
Crossing the Rift: North Carolina Poets on 9/11 & Its Aftermath
Joseph Bathanti & David Potorti, editors.
Press 53, publisher.
It Strikes a Contemporary. September 2021.
Prime Number Magazine, Issue 197.
Ireland as Seen From a Porch Swing in Hickory, NC. July 1, 2021
Thoughts on the Power of Goodness, co-edited by Timothy F. Crowley and Jaki Shelton Green.
Rising with the Moon on Advent Eve. December, 2020.
Print only. Order here
Vox Poetica Magazine.
Slugs. Spring 2020.
Third Wednesday Magazine.
The Happiness of Fear. Summer 2020.
An Honest Talk To The Shadow. summer 2020.
This week saw three of my poems published:
- Slugs in Vox Poetica
They are so unlovely and unloved
- Beach at Corolla, NC and Bee Fall in South Writ Large
Inside the beached whale was a library
Can goodbyes last past parting
or are they, like bees visits
to clover, intense moments
of working passion, nectar
searching, the sweet flight begun
soon after? Home to the hive.
Also I will be going to the Sewanee Writers Conference. Not this year but in 2021 as this year the conference has been COVIDed into Master Classes.
I have not been to such a conference since being at Warren Wilson in the very early 1990 and before that at Breadloaf in the very early 1980s.
In June 1855, a ship, the Benjamin Franklin, coming from the West Indes was placed under quarantine in Hampton Roads, Virginia. The captain broke quarantine. 3000 people–1/3 of the population of Norfolk and Portsmouth, Va.–died of yellow fever.
The first doctor treating patients to die was Dr Richard Silvester (he thought he might have immunity from previous exposure) in August. In September, his wife Lydia, his son Richard also a Doctor, and a younger son, William, were struck by the fever and died. Before winter, a daughter, Margaret, also died of the fever.
The elder Dr Silvester was my great-great-great-grandfather. The story of how the family was nearly wiped out by the captain breaking quarantine has been in my family since.
Yellow Fever was localized, carried by mosquitoes (that was not understood at the time. Vapors and the like were blamed), but ravaging. Today’s pandemic is at global scale, but the swiftness of the spread, the quarantine, and costs of particular lives echoes the so-called Great Pestilence in Virginia.
(note to myself: add links to this later)
Yesterday, my friend Eric (the Silent K) asked folks on Facebook:
Hey, word-smiths. Is there a word that describes the sensation of doing something normal in abnormal times?
In response, I coined not one but two related words – Abnotopia the sensation of doing something normal in abnormal times and Abnophoria Feeling elation in an abnormally weird or scary time. They’re now in Urban Dictionary. Vote ’em up!
Incidentally some open tabs in my browser:
- The Myth of Voice by Sean Igoe in The Lark
- “All You Have To Do Is Say The Words” Some notes regarding Robert Hass’s “Summer Snow” by Jonathan Farmer in Believer Magazine’s Logger
- Windows, Emily Leithouser’s translation of Charles Baudelaire’s Les FenÃªtres in LIterady Matters
- Narasimbha – the 4th avatar of Vishnu. The half-man/half-lion avatar is a one time use god. He incarnated, he killed a very bad deamon, and that’s it.
After being heavily tied to verse, I’ve taken a vacation into prose poems. This despite Robert Pinsky’s warning in his appreciation of Robert Hass’ A Story About the Body:
“A standard form for young poets these days, as the sonnet might have been for another generation, is the prose poem. It seems that most first books must contain one or two prose poems, if only to demonstrate the poet’s ability to manage the form, or awareness of fashion.”
In part this is also driven by my reading through “A Cast Iron Airplane That Can Actually Fly,” an anthology with commentary that includes Robert Hill Long and Charles Fort, which includes a wide variety of prose poems.
I did one prose poem a while back for Triggerfish Critical Review, but now have 3 or 4 more.
Anyone else working in this genre? Have favorite ones? Say Hass’ Paschal Lamb or Carolyn Forche’s The Colonel?
Update: Since posting this I’ve had three new prose poems accepted by Triggerfish Critical Review for their 24th issue due out online in July 2020.
Just my manuscript?
First, let me be a bit more modest. We, Arch Mission, created a library designed to be landed on the moon via SpaceIL. The library contains over 30 million pages of text and images etched into 40 micron thick nickel foils. My manuscript is only about 60 pages of all of that.
All of Project Gutenberg, all of the English language Wikipedia, the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights (in all of the recognized languages), the PanLex datasets (from the Long Now Foundation, a linguistic key to 5000 languages, with 1.5 billion translations between them), and some “private collections” (the entire works of Peter Drucker, the poetry of Kathleen Spivak, and more) make up a few of the other pages in the library. Some contents are yet to be revealed for various reasons but see The Lunar Library Overview for details on content and on the physical construction of the disks and etching process.
How am I involved with Arch Mission?
I’m on the Advisory Board for the Arch Mission Foundation helping the founder Nova Spivak identify free and open content to represent our human endeavors in the library. I also give advice as to categories of material to include. I was delighted that Nova asked me for a manuscript that might become lunar.
Where is the Lunar Library?
That’s a good question. The Beresheet lander landed really hard. That is to say it crashed on the lunar surface somewhere near or in the Sea of Serenity. The Library could have been ejected or sailed off at impact or… well, we’re not sure. Nova and other team member have created a document that speculates on the fate of the library.
So it’s on the moon. Even likely in one piece. But it’s small and waiting to be discovered.
And there are tardigrades!
At least we think so. Nova (I wasn’t part of this bit) had the library coated with protected resin in which there are, as far as I know, water bears aka tardigrades, embedded. Tardigardes are the roughest creatures on earth and can survive in a state of limbo for a long time under adverse conditions. While their inclusion concerned some people, the very idea that some form of earth life might be part of the library effort is novel.
Snapdragon: A Journal of Art & Healing
Scavangers. December 2019. Redemption and Grace Issue 5.4.
(digital subscription required)
Snapdragon: A Journal of Art & Healing
Against Desirelessness. November 2019. Broken/Whole Issue 5.3.
(digital subscription required)
The Red Vinegar Sauce. December 2019.
Hermit Feathers Review.
Lost Harbor. 2019.
Blue Ridge. 2019.
Pinesong – North Carolina Poetry Society.
2018 Award Winners:
Start the Game. Joanna Catherine Scott Award – First Place. Pushcart Prize nomination.
Hymn to Cash. Katherine Kennedy McIntyre Light Verse Award – Second Place.
Where I Come From. Mary Ruffin Poole American Heritage Award – First Place.
North Carolina Literary Review
Basketball is a Kind of Poetry. 2017 (online only) Best of the Net Prize nomination. Honorable Mention in James Applewhite Poetry Contest.
Clear Channel. 2017. (print only). Pushcart Prize nomination. 2nd Place in James Applewhite Poetry Contest.
I pretty much quit blogging about not doing email and about the various alternatives in 2016. No, I didn’t decide to pick email back up. I was not only tired of email, but tired of arguing about it. The crushing failure of email to adopt to 21st Century mobile first communications is either 1) obvious or 2) you are too entrenched to ever be convinced by the facts and trends.
Consider the case, like my Inbox, closed. That is closed except for a few dire or important circumstances.
I started this blog in 2004 as Facebook was beginning, 2 years before Twitter started, and 6 years before Instagram was founded. In the beginning, blogs did a lot of what those services do now, but–as you know–link sharing, photo sharing, event sharing, and many other functions have moved to services that do a better job. Blogs are back to being a place personal essays and personal websites. Not a bad place to be, really.
I’ll do a bit more blogging here about poetry publications and the like instead starting now.
Starting in September, I’ve been doing consulting with IntraHealth International‘s Informatics group. I’ve been impressed by the ways that this small group of dedicated people have developed Open Source software infrastructure for increasing the capacity of frontline health workers to do their jobs under tough circumstances. No circumstances — Palestine and Afghanistan perhaps excepted but for different reasons — are tougher than in Liberia during and in the continuing aftermath of the Ebola epidemic.
IntraHealth folks collaborated broadly and quickly to develop a new open source project mHero to create a bidirectional linkage between frontline health workers and ministries of health to help get out information about Ebola and to get information back to the ministry.
Largely because of IntraHealth’s strategy of developing increased capacity in both ministries and workers, and because the software and culture takes advantage of open source principles for remix and resuse, the ministry workers in Liberia found ways that mHero could be used in the diverse areas of mental health and in Information, Communications and Technology evaluation.
I just wrote about this work in detail for Open Source dot Com in an article Open source app takes on Ebola and mental health in Liberia. Check it out.