Monday, January 28, 2013

A Poetry for Ordinary Use

[By Jerry Ward]

We are condemned to live with the seven deadly insanities of the 21st century, but we can choose to find bright moments of sanity in the poetry of Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks, and other writers who knew dross often conceals gold.  If we are brave enough to set aside our jaded posturing, we may actually find pleasure in the kind of poetry James E. Cherry offers us.
Stephen F. Austin University Press has recently announced (and I quote verbatim from the announcement) ------

…the release of James E Cherry’s latest collection of poetry, Loose Change. With Loose Change, James E. Cherry explores those things that make us human. These poems are visceral, honest and possess a vulnerability that will allow you access into the world each day. In this collection of verse, very little is exempt from examination. Family, politics, race, art, aging and much more are placed under the poet’s microscopic eye to be clearly defined. But these are more than mere analytical explorations. Its [sic] Cherry’s ability to interpret those findings and how they have impacted his life that moves this work beyond the personal into the universal. He has managed to take the pedestrian and left us with a remarkable second collection of poetry. From the discordant aspects of his life, a melodious solo rises. You’ll continue to pat your feet long after the final page is finished.

The writer for the press gets one thing wrong. Cherry has not dissolved his voice in the so-called “universal.”  He has smelted the universal to prove the dominance of the ordinary, the personal.
Noting his indebtedness to Gwendolyn Brooks in an earlier poem “Annie Allen” (Honoring the Ancestors 8), Cherry announced

This journey of putting thoughts into words
that I have disembarked upon has been illuminated
by your smile like a beacon calling me
out of the darkness of who I am
and the worlds that encompass me.

After examining the loose change in Cherry’s most recent collection, some of us may come out of the darkness of who we have become and turn the change into a bank account.  If you have never read Cherry’s work, I recommend reading Honoring the Ancestors, his novel Shadow of Light, and his short fiction in Still A Man and Other Stories. In the asylum that is our world, we are fortunate to have writer generous enough to create life-oriented literature for ordinary people.

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