Brilliant, Unsparing 'Prelude' Will Leave A Bruise Saeed Jones' visceral, affecting new poetry collection, Prelude to Bruise, centers on the experience of Boy, an African-American child negotiating gender, sexuality and family in the South.
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Brilliant, Unsparing 'Prelude' Will Leave A Bruise

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Brilliant, Unsparing 'Prelude' Will Leave A Bruise

Review

Brilliant, Unsparing 'Prelude' Will Leave A Bruise

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ARUN RATH, HOST:

Saeed Jones works two jobs. And at first they might seem at odds. He's an editor at Buzzfeed, one of the Internet's most modern creations. But he also works in maybe the oldest form of literature - poetry. His new collection is called "Prelude To Bruise." Here's poet and writer Amal El-Mohtar with a review.

AMAL EL-MOHTAR: When I read great poetry, I have to stop myself from reviewing it poetically. It's never enough to praise the rhythm or the intensity of the work. I find myself wanting to say things like this book is seamed in smoke or to point out the supple twisting of its narrative spine.

But Saeed Jones' poems are so visceral and affecting, it would be a shame to bury them in that kind of language. The book begins with a quote from Franz Kafka. He writes (reading) the man in ecstasy and the man drowning both throw up their arms.

It's the perfect way to flavor what follows - poems that are many things at once, where words and poses reoccur with different overlapping meanings. Here's a little bit of a title poem - "Boy, Be A Bootblack" - (reading) Your back, blue-black. Your body, burning.

In the poem, boy, black and burn repeat and echo each other, so that you're always hearing multiple layered interpretations of the same words. Jones keeps up the wordplay. But he's also telling a story. It's about Boy, a queer African-American child, navigating family, gender and desire in the South. These are poems that look at hard, ugly experiences and ring beauty out of them.

They reminded me of Hans Christian Anderson's "Little Mermaid," whose every step on land felt pierced by knives. If her dancing were translated to poetry, it would look like this. I wish I could read them all out loud. This really is a book seamed in smoke. It really is inviting you to admire the supple twist of its narrative spine. Just listen to the first line of the first poem "Anthracite." (Reading) A voice mistook for stone, jagged black fist. Where that voice lands, it will leave a bruise.

RATH: The book is "Prelude To Bruise" by Saeed Jones. It was reviewed by Amal El-Mohtar. Her latest book of poetry is called "The Honey Month."

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