Jess Mynes' If and When & the Work of a Last Poem
I've been thinking about Jess Mynes' chapbook If and When. It's a lovely collection of spare poems packed with gentle beauty, sharp images & some honest chuckles.
The way I read it (& I'm being a bit broad here) is that it splits into two types of poems: poems that are close acts of attention to nature/agriculture & interacting with it & poems that collect fragmented thoughts & images. Though these two types intertwine in most of the poems, they are the poles I see Mynes working in relation to. "Harmonies" is one that I see as the former type:
bee rests on
railing corner rain
drops from treetops
plink rust into
limply lash laurel
taller trees were
fronds as fists
stagger of ferns
lines slick licorice
"Cast" is the shortest poem in the chapbook & briefly illustrates what I see as the latter type (I've messed up his formatting b/c I still don't know how to indent in blogger. Sorry.):
no quiet in this
what falls in place
It's a consistently engaging collection, moving between thinking about poetry & the personal to being out in the world beyond all the books & computers & hoax-anthologies. To me the ideology of it is about how the work of both kinds of attention inform each other. The beauty of the book is in the ways the poems do this informing.
But what makes me keep thinking about this collection is the last poem, which uses the aesthetics Mynes has established & then with one electric arc pushes them out of the book, beyond anything he does beforehand. It's not exactly the best poem in the chapbook, but it twists what has come before into a new kind of thinking. Unlike a final poem that looks back at the work of a collection in an attempt at resolution or conclusion, this poem reveals the epiphanic moment of progress that results from this work.
One thing I love is how chapbooks allow for an intimate engagement with a set of poems. They are small enough to reread quickly, often to fit in a pocket or at hand in a bag. But I rarely am affected by the structuring of a chapbook & what Mynes does with the placement of this final poem makes this collection much more than the sum of it parts for me.
I'm not going to post the final poem here; that would spoil too much. You need to read it yourself after stepping through the chapbook.
Buy it at the Katalanche site. After you've read the whole thing email me & we'll talk about it.
So this is not a review, more of an appreciation. But below you can watch a very positive review from a fellow poet: