Jones / Daniel Jones

Check THIS out!

I have to admit that, for a while now, I’ve felt like the only person in the world who knew who Daniel Jones was.  A master of taut, constrained sentences, his words seem to rail against the confines he puts them in. It’s a rare quality, at once powerful, jarring and it’s a quality that some audiences can’t seem to get around. I think of all the people I’ve loaned The Brave Never Write Poetry to, only one or two have actually responded to it in a way that didn’t amount to, “Yes. That certainly WAS a book.”

Sorry, guys, I can’t find the poem to cite it.

I first heard about Daniel Jones–pen name Jones–in a poetry workshop filled with long, looping lines of verse and semi-avant-garde story-poems. Another classmate handed out a section of Jones’ work and I was struck dumb. Who was this crazy, depressed Hemingway figure from the Canadian ’80s Toronto punk scene I never knew enough about?

Eventually, I collected all of his books, the result of months of rummaging in used book stores, awkward phone conversations with book dealers–“No, he just went by, ‘Jones.’ You know, like Cher”–and one very creepy craigslist book seller I met at High Park Station on… Nuit Blanche or some other night of that sort. After that, once I’d read all the books a few times–it’s easy; they’re short–I started to see that I wasn’t, in fact, the only person in the world who knew this author. Imagine my surprise a few years ago at York, when one of my favorite current Canadian authors, Steven Heighton, wrote an essay entitled simply, “Jones,” detailing an encounter he had with the underground poet at some point before he died. Or my revelation that another of my favorite poets, Kevin Connolly, appears several times–though as a much younger version of himself–in Jones’ work.

And now this. There’s a part of me that’s hoping Jones may finally get the credit he’s been due. But I’ll admit there’s a small part of me that’s not sure how to take the news that Daniel Jones, and his work, will probably never again be something I’m alone in being aware of. No longer private. In Daniel Jones, I find an author I read similarly to Denis Johnson, a poet of hard times, with an unflinching eye towards the faults of himself and of others. He’s painfully honest, and that’s a hard feeling to keep in a crowded room. But I really appreciate the reporter at the Post for bringing Jones’ work back into the limelight.  I’ll email him in the next day or two. Odds are, he works just on the next floor above my office.

How cool is THAT?!


If You Put It In A List, They Will Read: Esquire’s 75 Books I Should’ve Read

So. It seems Esquire magazine, pulpy guru of all things manly, published a list of 75 novels every man should read. I’m generally a little leery of such things–I hate the glib little descriptions. “Plain And Simple: The Dead.” Fuck off–but I actually am kind of impressed. 75 books, all of which I’ve read have impacted me and my view of myself as a man… And not a single Ted Bell book. Bravo, Esquire. Bravo.

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In The Service Of The Story: Poetics, Songwriting & Robert Service

Yeah; I put the obvious joke in the title. It’s out of the way now. Stay with me. We’re going somewhere cool.

I like to think that a lot of people go into the arts not for the paycheque (meager) or the notoriety (fleeting) but for the sakes of the stories. They simply don’t get the satisfaction of telling stories, from start to finish, in any other possible career they may come across. All of our modern modes of art and culture come back, more or less, to that one need: to serve the story, and I’ve found the heavy hitters of each mode or method of creating art—because the tendency can be channeled in many different ways, crossing facts, films, fiction and poetry—tend to all be obsessed with the concept of story.

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Road Novels

What is it about the road that inspires such great literature?

When I was 19 or 20, I envisioned a set of interlocked short stories based around a young man’s journey from Toronto to New Orleans. With only a notebook, he’d crossed the continent in my mind easily a dozen times, a dozen different ways. I’ve still got the outline somewhere, and about half the stories written. I lost the thread—I’ve got the middle, but the beginning and end of it, I could never figure, so I sort of… let it go.

But I’m knee-deep in “The Savage Detectives” by Roberto Bolano, and last year, I read “On The Road” by Kerouac for the first time. They’re firing me up to pull that manuscript out and see if there’s any life left in it.

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Michael Helm: Prairie Cool

One of my professors is finally getting some recognition. I say finally with a smirk, because his first book was shortlisted for the Giller, and his second is better than that. This man is the best part of York’s Creative Writing program. Within ten minutes of our first seminar, he’d recommended a half a dozen books, and by the end of that first semester, had taken to making long digressions from prepared remarks to tell amusing stories about famous writers. He’s an excellent writer, a wonderful storyteller and a great teacher. Introduced me to Roberto Bolano, Cormac McCarthy, and Wilco.

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Because I Hate Facebook… So Much

The eminent Ms. Hana Marku sent me a link asking me to name 15 authors I feel have influenced me. Apparently I’m supposed to be able to find this list in less than 15 minutes. I compiled a list, then, overwhelmed by the more than 25 names on it, did what any sensible person would do: left the house and found beer and chocolate and watched ‘Corpse Bride.’

Anyway, upon my return, I found the list had settled somewhat, and here’s what I came up with for the last 15.  I have no idea if any of the names here will make sense, but they’re all I’ve got.

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Fitting Vengeance For Anyone Who’s Read Ulysses

I loved that book, but I still wake up some nights with a mad desire to wring Joyce’s tiny, vulgar expatriate neck. It seems doubly fitting that this author uses less than 25 words to describe one of the most achingly long books I’ve ever attempted.