cover image Prelude to Bruise

Prelude to Bruise

Saeed Jones. Coffee House (Consortium, dist.), $16 (124p) ISBN 978-1-56689-374-9

In his debut collection, Jones has crafted a fever dream, something akin to magic. A dark night of the soul presented as the finest of evening gowns, these poems pulse with an elemental sensuality that recalls Rimbaud's "Venus Anadyomene" and the best of Southern Gothic writing. Using a personal symbology of femininity, violence, and the history of black America, Jones weaves a coming-of-age tale that is both terrible and revelatory. The open mouths of flowers become sex organs, screaming faces, and dying lovers. In one poem he juxtaposes a revelatory sexual experience with the coincidental collapse of a nearby building, as "First, a few loose bricks,/ then decades crashed to the street." Here, "there're always more/ corseted ghosts" haunting a land with the constant reminder: "YOU BETTER RUN/ IF YOU CAN READ/ THIS SIGN." The beauty this collection contains is overwhelming, with the potential to drown the reader even as it holds the promise of redemption. "There is a tornado inside," and at every moment it threatens to loose from the page into the world at large and take everything away with it. Solid from start to finish, possessing amazing energy and focus, a bold new voice in poetry has announced itself: "I am not a boy. I am not/ your boy. I am not." (Sept.)