Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Keith Jones, Echo’s Errand



no cure, ornery,
first language,
           then not  then nothing

wrists elaborately bound,
           dissolves, little

by little, she says
           a field of false time

it’s not worth explaining
          what ritual does not preserve

my voice
          scribbles it

The stunning and staggering full-length poetry debut by Boston poet and critic Keith Jones, following the chapbooks blue lake of tensile fire (Projective Industries), shorn ellipses (Morning House), the lucid upward ladder (Verse), Fugue Meadow (Ricochet Editions), and Surface to Air, Residuals of Basquiat (Pressed Wafer), is Echo’s Errand (Boston MA: Black Ocean, 2022), a collection of really striking poems of delicate, tensile, rhythmic and intellectual strength. His poems offer a lightness of line and breath akin to a spider’s web, but one that can hold the weight of an elephant. “how long here,” he begins, to open the first page of the five-page “THROWN BEYOND MEASURE,” “dwelling / in yr striations, / some far here I see / in you / intervals. // the motion is upwards, / thrown beyond / measure. / a land leashing you / to its seasons, [.]” Structured into two numbered sections, nearly in half, there is something of the long thread, the long thought, to his accumulated fragments, one that furthers and keeps furthering, especially in poems constructed out of one more line, one more stanza, one more section added and then another, and yet, remain entirely, utterly complete. Simultaneously elliptical and direct, I agree with Fanny Howe’s back cover blurb that says he writes with “velocity”; the word is entirely appropriate, as there is such a propulsion to Jones’ lyrics and rhythms, neither halted nor halting, but one step simply following another, akin to dominos landing, one against the other, click click click click, seemingly continuous until it quietly stops. He writes of time through pacing, pause and continuous flow; perhaps his entire poetic is one built up around the articulation and movement of time itself, as he writes to close a stanza of the poem “SHADE OF, BOUND TO YOU”: “let it sink    back in    to earth    to burn bright / alone    among roots    quiet grubs & clusters [.]” Jones writes around philosophy, and directly to the heart. “cruel mounds / where the heart-wrench / is,” he writes, to end the two-page poem “BLOWN RAKE OF TEARS,” “where wrong / is, where wrong / lies in fields / & seas, un- / buried [.]”There is something of his lyric that suggests his poems could hold a philosophical debate with the more formally-structured poems of Ottawa poet Stephen Brockwell [see my review of his latest here] and not only hold their own, but both poets might emerge aglow.

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