The Correct Spelling and Exact Meaning

Richard Jones, Author . Copper Canyon $15 (96p) ISBN 978-1-55659-317-8

Jones is nothing if not sincere, and his fluent free verse and glowing prose poems pursue some very traditional goals: “I tell my students I don't have the wisdom/ to explain beauty and mystery,” he declares, but beauty and mystery are what he finds, commemorating parents and friends, contemplating the art of poetry, and celebrating his young children—his son, William, for example, and “the Zen wisdom of his six-year-old mind.” Jones (Apropos of Nothing ) writes clear lines imbued with a serious optimism and an American informality, ready to make his “silver pencil sharpener” a fit symbol of “the marriage of utility and beauty.” This sixth book celebrates marriage and family, as it celebrates the everyday: it interrupts the quest for “exact meaning” with a set of witty short poems about punctuation. Even there, though, Jones reaches for things of the spirit: a dash is “on headstones/ the life”; the signs “<>“ are “what he” (i.e., Jesus) “wrote with his finger in the dirt.” As articulate as he can be, Jones pays homage to a numinous—sometimes, a Christian—presence greater than words: “if that's what it takes to hold/ pure poetry in my hand,” one poem decides, “I'll become like a child/ waiting to decipher/ text messages from God.” (May)

Reviewed on: 04/19/2010
Release date: 04/01/2010
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