Thursday, August 24, 2006



Femme Du Monde by Patricia Spears Jones
(Tia Chucha Press, 2006)

As it was for Frank O'Hara, so it is for Patricia Spears Jones. "…Poetry brings forth the intangible quality of incidents which are all too concrete…." And it's more than the union of the ordinary and the intangible in their work that brings to mind a kinship between the two poets. They share a familiarity of place (New York and Paris, though I don't think O'Hara ever ventured west of the Hudson) and a love of referring to place. It is as if landscape and the street and architecture of cityscape are necessary grounding for the internal journeys of their poems. Their identities are interdependent with place. Place is an extension of their bodies and souls, not in an omnipresent, Whitmanesque sense, but in a humble, transcendental way. For who knows where the poet ends and the physical world begins.

Femme du Monde is the third collection by New York-based poet Patricia Spears Jones, and in it one gathers a strong sense of a woman moving from geographical place to place, victorious -- the sophisticated lady, invulnerable. A little scared, a little weary. She has been there, done that, and then some. She may be trailing a Mercedes with Texas plates over the Mississippi, strolling the Quai Voltaire, or waiting for a cross-town bus. Wherever she is, she's in for the "long haul." And whatever the place or circumstance, her aesthetic antennae create an invisible shield behind which she safely extracts the essence of her experience. The shield is her magic armor -- the suit under which the poems get under her skin. It may not be completely impenetrable. Love is lost; friends die too soon; the heat of the 4th of July on Long Island Sound conjures visions of "the hell on earth" of "slave ships gorged with cargo and rum" flowing "north from Barbados to New England." The old woman singing La vie en rose on the Paris metro smells of "cheap tobacco" and "unwashed garments." John Wayne wants to kill Monty Cliff in Red River and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof isn't just about Liz's lingerie, it's about Big Daddy's "C.A.N.C.E.R" and the black servants cashing in their patience. The suit has a few dents and tiny holes, but it's thick enough. It allows the poet's "knotted heart" to untie itself; and with Spears Jones's world-weary sense of humor, that sufficiently creates just the right barrier, in a "life held together with wishful thinking and krazy glue," to see and feel "jazzmen in the falling stars."

I was thoroughly seduced by Femme du Monde, by the grit and blood, wit, flesh, bone, and spirit of which the poems are made. From the particular they move to the universal, effortlessly. From the body they dissolve into space. The world they reference is mundane. The world they reference is marvelous. The senses perceive, the poet distills, and life is reduced to a healing elixir.


Janet Hamill is the author of four books of poetry and short fiction, Lost Ceilings being the most recent. In collaboration with the band Moving Star, she has released two CDs of spoken word and music -- Genie of the Alphabet and Flying Nowhere. A strong proponent of poetry's oral tradition, Janet has read and performed at The Poetry Project, The People's Poetry Gathering, The Bowery Poetry Club, the Andy Warhol Museum, Lowell Celebrates Kerouac, and London's Meltdown Festival.


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