When the Only Light Is Fire by Saeed Jones
“SAEED JONES IS A NAME WE WILL KNOW
FOR THE REST OF OUR LIVES.” – JERICHO BROWN
Cover Photograph by Christopher Benbow
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In his debut chapbook of poetry, 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. Through Texas and Tennessee, Alabama and the riverbeds of the Mississippi, these poems wrap themselves in cloaks of masks and comfort; garments we learn are flammable if we stand too close to flames.
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Read a review in Blackbird = CLICK HERE.
D.A. Powell, author of Chronic:
“Like Aeneas carrying his father from the ruined city of Troy, Saeed Jones brings all of his beginnings–the roots and tendrils of the kudzu vines, the ‘sky burned to blazing,’ the lore and pain and wisdom of salvation–into a new space where art and beauty stagger the mind; where the story of transformation becomes part of the cultural body of who we are. I get shout-happy when I read these poems; they are the gospel; they are the good news of the sustaining power of imagination, tenderness and outright joy; they are the birth of a new poetry that baptizes with the Holy Spirit and with fire.”
Jericho Brown, author of Please:
“[This] is much more than a chapbook. Saeed Jones’ ear for rhythm is one fit to make every one of his black poet ancestors proud, and his poems put me on notice that perfection is indeed a necessary goal. These poems have at their access every inch of the poet’s experience and imagination. You hold in your hands more than new talent or certain potential; Saeed Jones is a name we will know for the rest of our lives.”
Metta Sama, author of South of Here:
“In Saeed Jones’ thorny translucent songs, we hear the whistle of poets Jones—an avid reader—surely loves: Reginald Shepherd, Brigit Peegan Kelly, Tyehimba Jess, Louise Glück, Emily Dickinson, and we hear more: an urgently new voice, freshly haunted, freshly haunting, a poet in corset dragging his wings & a shotgun along a star-studded beach shore. The world Jones imagines delightfully frightens with its piercing seduction, its loose tongue, its tight, swish-hipped lyric. Sharpen a knife when you approach; Jones’ lyrics are not afraid to cut you.”
Anna Journey, author of If Birds Gather Your Hair for Nesting:
“The poems of Saeed Jones possess a searing emotional intensity that is so finely cadenced and controlled, readers can’t help but be seduced by this ferocious siren song of a book. Jones has a fabulist’s knack for entwining the psychological wilderness of fraught lovers with the deep south’s steamy brutality—its sexual taboos, racial violence, and harrowing outskirts. Enter When the Only Light Is Fire, where small town boys cross-dress in thistle fields and a kudzu vine brags: ‘if I ever strangled sparrows, / it was only because I dreamed / of better songs.'”
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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.