Apropos of Nothing
by Richard Jones

(Reviewed by Jeff Munnis)

    The poetry of Richard Jones has elicited a wide spectrum of positive reviews for over twenty years. Blunt with reserve, direct and delicate, are two descriptions of his work by other reviewers that I find to be accurate. The language of his poetry reads and feels quiet, yet the words are sharp and clear. A Richard Jones poem can make you feel comfortable and contained, but turn the page and he’ll tip you out of the wheelbarrow onto rocky soil, into deep water, or a drop you through bottomless space. His poetry is grounded in reflective thought, life experience, and most importantly, a deep sense of grace.
    Mr. Jones has won awards for his poetry as well as for his editorial work in Poetry East, a publication he founded in 1979. Over the course of his literary career he has created a body of work that, in quality, matches highly regarded, and well known, poets like Philip Levine, Billy Collins and Ted Kooser. His new book, Apropos of Nothing (Copper Canyon, 2006) adds to a legacy that in many ways is overlooked and deserves more attention. Few American poets combine his word economy with lyricism and few have the versatility and discipline to handle such a variety of subjects.
Some examples:

“God and Infinity”

    My five-year-old is enamored of the words
    infinity and god, employing them
    to map space and time. God is bigger
    than our house, bigger than the city, bigger
    even than the biggest monster or spaceship.
    A race car’s infinity fast, boys eat infinity cookies,
    his scrubbed face is, he says, infinity shining—
    shining all the way up to God.

A driver, in “Subwoofer,” who, with

    shaved head, heavy-lidded eyes—
    wears a face of serenity, like a monk
    at one with the unremitting Om
    of the universe in the locked trunk.

Talking about death with his father in “Sky Funeral,”

    I ask if he’d like me to carry him—
    like a bundle of sticks    on my back—
    up a mountain road to a high meadow
    and feed him to the tireless vultures.

    “Yes,” he says, raising a crooked finger,
    “and remember to wield the ax with love.”

    Richard Jones wields the pen of a poet with love for his subjects, love for the craft of his writing and with grace anchored in a mature understanding of language and art.

    Other books by Richard Jones:

The Blessing: New & Selected Poems. Port Townsend: Copper Canyon, 2000
The Stone It Lives On. (poetry) Adastra Press, 2000
The Empty Heart, Copper Canyon Press, 1999
48 Questions, Tebot Bach Books, 1998
The Abandoned Garden. (poetry) Tunheim Santrizos, 1997
A Perfect Time. Copper Canyon Press, 1994
At Last We Enter Paradise. Copper Canyon Press, 1991
Sonnets. (poetry) Adastra Press, 1990
Country of Air. Copper Canyon Press, 1986