I hadn’t read Rodney Jones’s previous books of poetry (this one is his ninth), but I will now that I’ve read Imaginary Logic: Poems. It a collection full of the familiar and the everyday but described in unexpected and precise ways, and with an eye that is focused and accurate.
The poems cover a wide terrain – recollections of youth and childhood, prayers, family relationships, the stories houses tell, and, among others, driving at night through St. Louis (Jones is a professor of English at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, about 90 minutes southeast of St. Louis). The poems vary in length from a few stanzas to several pages, but they are all written in distinctly readable and approachable language; this is not so much the poetry of academia as it is the poetry of recognizable life.
One of his longer poems in the collection, “The Previous Tenants,” is about the couple who lived in the house previously to the teller of the story:
The couple who built our house had great plans
for this lot where they would live out their days:
he in dedicated husbandry, priming a garden
with sludge from the sewage plant, hauling stones
from the condemned homesteads by the new lake
to buttress the terraces; and she reading Aquinas
or pouring Pinot Noir for predinner conversations
after her work as a counselor at the women’s center…
But plans don’t work out; he gets Alzheimer’s or something like it while she becomes enraged at what he’s turning into. Jones turns the story into a poetic meditation on death, relationships, and what we leave behind us.
We know them from the colors they left more than their words.
We know them more from the marks they left on the wood
than the pulses that quickened when they entered rooms.
We know the four flower beds. We do not know their love…
These poems are quiet works, reflective, provoking the reader’s own memories of growing up and growing old. It’s a fine collection.