Vessel

Parneshia Jones. Milkweed Editions (PGW, dist.), $16 trade paper (72p) ISBN 978-1-57131-4673
Jones, recipient of the Gwendolyn Brooks Poetry Award, presents a debut collection that doubles as a bildungsroman in verse. Much of the book takes the form of love letters to Jones’s youth, her family, and Chicago, as she pays homage to the city’s people, summers, and even its food. As she explores questions of identity, such as the way her first name shaped her perception of herself as a little girl, Jones writes with a casual, yet intentional, storyteller’s tone that eases the reader into her narratives. The poems often feel like modern-day creation myths, and throughout the book she flirts with nostalgia while capturing the small details of the past, including a party in the early 1990s in the basement of a YMCA. Some poems push too far into sentimentality as they express her love for a grandmother or memory of a first kiss, and Jones sometimes summarizes instead of challenging the reader to examine the images she presents. Her poems find greatest success when she follows her ear: “Some were never found,/ soft bones swept under moss trees/ The missing and ache sweat/ across the foreheads of fathers/ reckoning nightmares.” Jones has an unusual gift for capturing place and time, and she demonstrates a deep affinity for the subtleties of description. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 03/16/2015
Release date: 04/01/2015
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