Salvation Blues: One Hundred Poems 1985–2005

Rodney Jones, Author . Houghton Mifflin $25 (246p) ISBN 978-0-618-62430-0

Jones, who grew up in rural Alabama, and whose mother and grandparents (the poems tell us) were farm workers, pursues gritty anecdotes that place him within a Southern narrative tradition from Robert Penn Warren to Yusef Komunyakaa and Dave Smith. In this culling from six previous volumes and from new work, Jones (Elegy for the Southern Drawl ) portrays "cows named for friends/ and fated for slaughterhouses"; "the tongue-tied, the murderous, the illiterate/ And the alcoholic"; waitresses in "the Benzedrine light of waffle houses"; "a semi loaded with bridge girders"; mules, pigs, and hard physical labor; "fingers cracked by frost/ And lacerated by Johnson grass." As much as he chronicles hard lives, Jones (who teaches at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale) shows an unusual intellectual reach and a large verbal ambition. While this ample book will serve many readers as an introduction to Jones's work, it also contains surprises for his fans: 24 new poems (some his best yet) build on his descriptive strengths as they incorporate political commentary, remembering high school, conceiving the end of the human species or excoriating politicians who sing the "Low-Down Sorry Right-Wing Blues." (Mar.)

Reviewed on: 01/23/2006
Release date: 03/01/2006
Genre: Fiction
Discover what to read next