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Poetry Review: Reflections on the Dark Water, by M.P. Jones
by Dante Di Stefano
Reflections on the Dark Water
by M.P. Jones
Madison Jones is a Graduate Research Fellow at the University of Florida—where he works with the TRACE journal and innovation initiative. He is editor-in-chief of Kudzu House Quarterly. Reflections on the Dark Water (Solomon & George) is his second poetry collection. Recent publications include co-editing Writing the Environment in Nineteenth-Century American Literature; an article forthcoming in ISLE: Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment; poetry forthcoming in Birmingham Poetry Journal, ISLE, and The Goose, and recently appearing in Canary, Tampa Review, Painted Bride Quarterly, Greensboro Review, and elsewhere; book reviews in ISLE, Kenyon Review Online, The Journal, and elsewhere. Visit his website: ecopoiesis.com.
Catastrophes of Sunlight
In M.P. Jones’ second collection of poetry, Reflections on the Dark Water, the poet pursues the black currents and refracted joys of his own psyche through the lush rural landscapes of the Deep South. For Jones, the pastoral tradition itself becomes a scene in which he might untangle “the skeins/ of naked selves.” Magnolia, kudzu, squabbling jaybirds, the stars over Alabama, and “the low pull of trainsong,” provide the backdrop against which Jones paints a portrait of the many selves contained within a single line of poetry. Through “catastrophes of sunlight on the bedspread,” the poet constructs entire genealogies of silence and, in so doing, he strives for an ecological mindfulness centered as much on love of others as on love of the earth.
Love of family, love of poetry, and love of human history intermingle throughout Reflections on the Dark Water; the collection reads as a ghostly palimpsest where Jones’ deceased brother might be read alongside James Wright, Li Po, Charles Wright, Emily Dickinson, Hayden Carruth, a slew of Roman emperors, and generations of Japanese poets. As Jones notes in the poem, “The Bicycle,” there is “no division/ between the deep taproots and the loam.” Each poem in Reflections breaks down arbitrary temporal and physical divisions; each moment, here, is every moment, an eternal recurrence of thrush, threshing floor, bone sutra, and crow shadow, presided over by the Native American trickster god, Coyote. Jones demonstrates this cyclonic phenomenology in the poem, “Morning Otology,” when he writes:
The neighbor passes again
on the green mower.
Emperor Titus thought a gnat
had crawled in a nostril
to pick his brain as punishment.
The loud hum of the John Deere shuttles the poem from neighborhood to imperial palace, through the ruins and the lacunae of antiquity, reminding us that to be human, whether rich or poor, whether provincial or cosmopolitan, whether ancient or postmodern, is to contend with the great final silence of the grave. M.P. Jones writes to affirm the amethyst in the bramble, the dark syllables of thunder, the nocturne of the empty field, the world behind the world, hidden in the wing of a heron alighting on the drainage lake of an industrial park.
Listen to Jones read his poems: