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When the Only Light Is Fire Paperback – November 15, 2011

5.0 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Saeed Jones, a 2010 Pushcart Prize Nominee, received his MFA in Creative Writing at Rutgers University-Newark. His poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in publications like Bloom, Hayden's Ferry Review, StorySouth, jubilat, West Branch, Weave, The Collagist, and Linebreak. His blog, "For Southern Boys Who Consider Poetry," is dedicated to emerging queer poets of color.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 44 pages
  • Publisher: Sibling Rivalry Press (November 15, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1937420035
  • ISBN-13: 978-1937420031
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,194,927 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback
Saeed Jones's collection is something to own, so that you can read the poems and then go back to them over and over again. They say universality is in the particulars; Jones's particulars reveal his world, but it will reveal your world as well.

I used to be a fiction editor at a litmag, and for a brief period of time, I helped read the poetry slushpile. There were poems that leapt out at me and burned themselves into my mind; they were the ones I could read repeatedly deriving new meaning and further passions each time. Those were the chosen ones.

So it is with each of the poems in Jones's When the Only Light Is Fire.

The first poem, "Kudzu," blew me away with its closing lines (and I apologize in advance, because I didn't get the spacing/indentation correct with Amazon feedback formatting):

"All I've ever wanted
was to kiss crevices, pry them open,
and flourish within dew-slick
hollows.
How you mistake
my affection.
And if I ever strangled sparrows,
it was only because I dreamed
of better songs."

Jones, like so many poets and artists, approaches the usual corners of darkness: heartbreak, loneliness, isolation, violence, abuse, and yearning. And like so many poets and artists of color, he approaches a history that is void of power, as he does in "Jasper, 1998: III," a poem that echoes the rhythms of a "Chain gang, work song, back road,/ my body."

And yet--he lights these corners up. Not in a cheerful colorful light that excuses and hides these injustices--but a clear and unblinking and merciless spotlight.

This is one of my favorite poetry collections. I know that poetry can be spotty out there--it can be maudlin or manipulative, but this is not that kind of poetry.

And watch out--this new voice is going to get bigger. Catch him at the beginning. And read him. Read this.
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Format: Paperback
I'm not really a poetry person. Let me just first say that. I have always appreciated it, intellectually and artistically, but it has never reached me, emotionally, like prose does.

Until now. Now, after reading WHEN THE ONLY LIGHT IS FIRE.

Saeed Jones's collection of poetry is unlike anything I've ever read before (and, most likely, unlike anything I will read again). This is poetry about longing and lust, about anger and joy, about searching and loss, about raw Southern days and hot Southern nights. Jones's word choice is precise and powerful, the images he evokes unforgettable. These poems took my breath away.

Jones is a talent as inexorable and irresistible as the fires described in his poetry. You don't want to miss this. I promise.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Saeed Jones writes like only a Southern poet can. Evocative of the earth and longing. Passion driving the words, taking you inside a landscape lit with a fire that burns from the inside and is scorched, parched, ripe, found. Grasped and held up. These are polished poems from unpolished worlds, poems lit by their refractions. You'll find in them a rare courage. A bright voice. A voice honed in places you may or may not have ever seen.

As a poet, I have an astute eye for poems that bow beyond the ordinary to the extraordinary in a way substantial and distinct enough to leave a mark. Each line here is an art. Each poem stands alone, but the collection itself likewise lends each poem a rare depth and breadth. This is stunning work, important not only for queer poets of color, but for humanity.

(I read a review on Lambda Literary Foundation's site that cued me to the book...)
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Format: Paperback
I'd first come across the collection in search of a purchase to better understand a press, and the description really stood out for me. Although I was born in Germany and live in Berlin now, many of my formulative years were spend in the southern U.S. in the states of Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina and Louisana, and these are some of the places the poet grew up.

"Saeed Jones walks on the periphery of the South, those places on the outskirts of town, in bars after midnight, and on dangerous backroads where most people keep their heads down or look the other way...." How well I understood that description and recall many such places, such dangers!

I wanted to read the author's impressions of those places and compare them to my own, my collection "CORE" is forthcoming. Sometimes they were agonizingly similar based on being from a minority population and with a sexuality publicly reviled yet privately practiced so that abuse can be common of those who are not allowed to have voices.

Visceral, vivid, yet often using a minimum of words, this was a difficult collection for me to read, as often the images created through the poet's words triggered my own memories of darkness, abuse, aloneness and pain. I found it outstanding, courageous and to be admired for the ability to share personal emotions and experiences.
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Jones has a talent for getting to the heart of things. His poems are gritty, rhythmic, and a joy to read.
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