Hannah Jones

Winner of the Louise Louis/Emily F. Bourne Student Award in 2003

from Discourses



I.
For years a friend believed in reincarnation while I was terrified of death.
On the beliefs of Buddha, vicarious, like a diver on the edge
of the over-soul,
her toes curled in monotone prayer.
I thought, when I heard her brush off fear,
of many saffron and earth monks trailing a blaze line
up a mountain
(because everything was easier for imagery, then).
Still, this brought me no comfort:
I thought of myself, and of her, and of the world,
as having pieces lost through living. If you go barefoot
on the cold, ragged earth,
your calluses mark the end of your newborn youth;
and the harshness of your windworn body will grow like an oak
but for nowhere near as long.

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Brenda Shaugnessy on Hannah Jones

Hannah Jones' ambitious and vulnerable poem wrestles with no less than the central quandaries of existence: how to be, and how to create one's life fully only to relinquish everything upon death. In 16 parts, the poet explores the ungainly, elemental forces of life and death through various epistemologies: that of the scientist, the mathematician and the artist. The yearning protagonist queries the experts for perspective on the relation between theory and practice, and between objectivity and creativity. "To be taught is to be reborn", the poet says, and she is unafraid to match what she is taught with her own intuition and originality: teach me, show me a path and let me take it from there. Let me stumble down it, fully alive.

Combining an astonishingly mature intellectual clarity with emotional honesty (with more than a dash of youthful idealism and exuberance), Jones' is a fascinating new voice and one I expect to hear again. Her protagonist may need to learn, but Jones already has her own poetic body of knowledge and much to inspire and teach her readers.

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