Author: Jéanpaul Ferro
Filed Under: Poetry.
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|C4 Ratings...out of||10|
Jazz, the latest release from 8-time Pushcart Prize nominee Jéanpaul Ferro, is a jolting collection of poetry full of exuberance and vulnerability. Recently nominated for both the 2012 Griffin Award in Poetry and the 2012 Kingsley Tufts Award in Poetry, Jazz is one of those rare collections that captures the true essence of 21st Century life.
There is an underlining disquiet within the lines of Jazz that seems to mirror the horrific headlines of each day. The characters of Ferro’s world inhabit a cold and heart-breaking reality that often breaks apart into tragedy. One of the truly remarkable accomplishments of this book is Ferro’s ability to remain neutral while still capturing the vitality that truly great poetry is readily able to capture.
In “Letter From A Soldier,” a young soldier stationed overseas imagines home as though he is writing a dark mystic letter—half dream and nightmare:
I look for you in the dark,
beyond the Massachusetts woods
where the wolves hide at the edge
of the field,
all night long as the rockets
rain down just a little bit harder;
I go through all the alleys as the
buildings come down and everything
turns to ash,
But I am just a little bit broken,
broke in all the right places—
a million little jewels that split apart
all across the ground.
A large number of poems in Jazz are deftly nuanced so that space and time seemingly ceases to exist. You begin to read within one realm; and while you believe you have been transported a million miles away you are suddenly thrust back into a place you never expected. Nowhere is this better examined than in the haunting “Life on Mars.”
And at night in my new home I lie there awake, staring up
into their bright green sky,
not thinking about God who was right there, but dreaming
about you instead, your naked body clutched tightly up against
my soul that was trembling,
the scent of wood smoke on us like when we were wet and out
dreams of our dog and the ice storm when the electricity went out,
how everything was frozen like platinum;
and you quoted Anaïs Nin right before the power came back on:
We don’t see things as they are, we see things as we are, you
and right then the phone rang as the lights came on up; and it was
your father calling, frantic, to tell you that your mother had just died.
Throughout Jazz there is an emotive theme underlining every word and syllable. You get the sense of who the character is in the poem, their likes and their dislikes, their occupation and their obsessions. It is almost as though you can taste what they had for breakfast and you can sense the scent of the room they actually might be sitting in. In the poem, “Cuba,” a man has grown old and tired waiting for his beloved country to change:
We hid amid the swaying fields of sugar cane
when Castro overthrew that fool, Fulgencio,
you in your libidinous red dress that kept
all the men of Plaza Vieja very happy, every day
a procession after the bullfights and the executions;
I think I was dead every morning I was without you,
the statues of the city cold, but I understood them,
And now I am old and you have already gone,
nothing to quench my thirst like things used to do,
Jesus! I’m tired of waiting for Cuba to change!
Cuba is both a truth and a fiction, a great story of lust
and of craving,
A country that longs for tomorrow to be like yesterday,
and for yesterday to be like tomorrow. Amen.
There are pieces within Jazz that are absolutely stunning. And there are images and metaphors that I will never be able to get out of my head. In the poem “This Much,” we find the passage: “drunk in night sweats in the time machine on our way to equilibrium.” In the evocative “Grand Canyon” we find the lines: “the rock and sediment wearing us down / all the rest of us spilling out from the inside / until the core shows, beautiful in the platinum moonlight / our bodies wet and wedged in between the glittering strata.”
And in “Living A Life At Night” the sexy and evocative opening: “Our nights never crumble / we like to lick the poetry off each other’s bodies / the fires burning down near the rivers of Providence / dancing in the streets like it is a red New Orleans / jazz piano during the war with Norman Brown on guitar.”
Jéanpaul Ferro’s Jazz is a seminal work reflecting the new digital, technological, and sound-bite era of this early 21st Century. All the traditional problems are here as before, but they are faster, more jarring, contradictory, surreal, and mythic. Ferro captures this nicely, and in his own unique way.
There is no one way to label him as a writer or someone who is part of one school or another. But there is a cohesiveness and a beauty in his work that is always immediately identifiable; and then nourishing as you let it take you in. For me, Jazz is the type of book that feeds both the soul and the mind. And there is no greater achievement than for a writer to weave these two counterpoints into one.
Similar Reads: Virgin of the Apocalypse, by Corrine De Winter; Blizzard of One, by Mark Strand.