cover image Imaginary Logic

Imaginary Logic

Rodney Jones. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $22 (96p) ISBN 978-0-547-47978-1

The gritty, capacious verse in this ninth book from Jones (Salvation Blues) pursues, and secures, the virtues of realist fiction: credible characters whose lives change as we read about them, in well-defined milieus (the Alabama where Jones grew up, most often, but also the Midwest, where he lives now). By far the longest poem, "The Previous Tenants," follows his almost unwilling discoveries about an unhappy couple's lives: "We know the four flower beds. We do not know their love./ We know all that went unrepaired and fell apart...." Jones takes family stories for long, rough rides, "seeing how, on a childhood rabbit-hunting trip,/ Uncle Manson shot Uncle Cecil in the back," and he gets a thoughtful political poem out of service on a local sewer board. Yet Jones's strongest new work%E2%80%94mostly in the first part of the volume%E2%80%94stands apart from the stories it contains, enfolding arguments and inventing voices for characters as it hunts the same durable themes. Middle age, masculinity, competition, religion, football, and the art of poetry itself spin together into powerful ironies in some of the best poems Jones has created so far: "I had a dream," one begins, "of harnessing and exacting irrevocable power over others... in the cleat-pocked, dried dirt of a practice field." (Oct.)