Books

Viva the Real

Shortlisted: Prime Minister's Literary Awards, 2019

Viva the Real, Jill Jones’s eleventh full-length collection, is a poetic and visceral tribute to the real. While it contains many subjects, its abiding interests are the phenomenology of reality, the place of the human among the non-human, and the wildlife and vegetation that exist in our urban environments. The poems are crafted in such a way that they simultaneously resist neat comprehension (‘this means this’) and feel accessible; they held my attention easily. … In Viva the Real there is a deep-seated wonder at reality in its fleshy and vegetable fullness. … phenomenology and the non-human world are abiding themes, and through these Jones presents an ethos of relating to the non-human, of striving always to sympathise with it. … The poems here seem both embodied and disembodied, both personal and impersonal, with poetic forms constantly shifting as well, never just one thing. There is a restless energy to Viva the Real, … Whatever the motivating force for this restlessness, it forms an engaging and wide-ranging collection – through it, an array of subjects and aesthetics are harmonised by the poet. - Prithvi Varatharajan, Plumwood Mountain

Viva the Real … has its quota of forceful, relatively direct poems, mostly about nature (often suburban), or encapsulating brief moments of cosmic awareness. … [a] number of poems ‘push[ing] her sense of what language can (and can’t) do to the limits’. … [and poems with] a subtle, mordant humour and a convincing sense of how little we truly understand all that surrounds us. These include the disconcertingly moving ‘Things I Learned in Bay 13A’, the cosmically chastening ‘This Quintessence of Dust’ and the playfully nostalgic ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ (whose last stanza contains the book’s title: ‘Viva, viva the real / and the nights together’.” - Geoff Page, The Australian

“[T]hese are poems that demand to be read, not just for the alliteration, and the slippery shifting of vowels, but for crunchy crispness of the language and the unlikely juxtapositions.In my personal encounter with this collection, I was drawn into the poems that spoke to me of the weight (or weightlessness) of words, and the longing for a language to express or make sense of, a pervasive restless disconnect. This is a sensation that is fundamental and primal, but coloured with the mixed blessings and illusions of modern interconnectedness: … Mid-way through this collection I encountered a poem that, in the moment, spoke to me of conversation about a mutual sense of groundlessness that a faraway friend and I had shared.  I immediately had to photograph the page and send it to him. That is poetry that speaks. In the end, Brink is, for me, a strange brew. It is blend of perceptive, sensual imagery; a confident exercise in word-crafting; an ode to a stressed climate; and, above all, wise counsel to: ‘Take better joy.’ Joseph Schreiber, roughghosts

“[T]he erotics of Jones’ language reveal[s] the physicality and the non-abstractedness of ‘love’, yet contradictorily, and tenderly, gesture to the unutterable. … The poetry in this collection veers and stirs to unite physicality-with-language-with-weatherly-conditions: ‘the shape of an ear, marginal facts / blown about by a northerly’. … In continuation with a lot of poetry responding to ecological concerns, Jones necessarily merges the ecopoetical with the elegiac and alludes to the dystopian. As each page of the book is turned the poems become more experimental – to fracture is sometimes to articulate. In a world where the poet’s ‘consonants drown’ and ‘[i]t’s hard to balance words, they fall off clouds’, there is no solid ground for Jones – only the land that is being dismissed and destroyed: ‘Loss spreads like highway, wings, disease, excuses.’ Autumn Royal, Overland

“The poetic epigraphs that introduce all three sections in Brink, Jill Jones’s tenth full-length poetry collection, are collaged fragments from the poems proper. Moodily, they skirt the edges of what’s to come: ‘I am to proliferate.’ The poems then, in all their multiplicity, evoke and explore being on the brink – of knowing, feeling, sensing, and making sense” – Toby Fitch, Australian BookReview

Shortlisted: Kenneth Slessor Poetry Prize, NSW Premier's Literary Awards 2017

“central to these poems is the sensory experience in the everyday and familiar. Often the senses entangle—‘shadows blow in / like diesel and roses’. The seasonal and temporal are fluently evoked, and even portraits of lack or concealment are vivid in their imagery: ‘Like the year you never had spring / and nothing yellow happened’; ‘You see lemons / even though they are hidden’. Throughout, the poems reveal the endlessly generative, connotative, associative qualities of language and representation, and situate themselves within this realm. … Jones’ localities are not pinned to specific spaces, but seem to wilfully resist, even as they gesture to, the particulars of a local or place-driven poetics. … The poems’ reflections and refractions generate spaces of depth and transience simultaneously. … Jones’ music here, as in her earlier collections, breaks open days, spaces, time and mutability in ‘wrenching’, beautiful ways.” Jo Langdon, Westerly

“If this is poetry that is best described as 'stripped-down lyricism', what tricks of poetic technique and language survive the paring down process? Certainly, there is little obscurity, and a subtle directness can achieve extraordinary sophistication. … Jones writes with such a clever concertina-ing of perspective, the effect of which is to surprise and hold in balance such finely observed fragility. … So much is gained by spending time with new poetry by Jill Jones as she confidently moves across styles, balancing tension and juxtaposition amidst such sophistication in clear communication. She evokes a world of great splendour, but also fragility, in an unsentimental and interrogative way. Jones looks into a world of broken beauty and 'growling power' and knows that even 'harm sings'." - Phillip Hall, Plumwood Mountain



 “[in] Jill Jones’s Breaking the Days [t]he title indicates the collection’s overall mood of unease, and how such a mood can be produced by allowing something which is known – a thing, a phrase, an idea – to shift, and become detached from its usual meanings. Jones’s focus is on the everyday, with its recurrent images of familiar sights – rain, fridges, doors, roads, sunshine, trucks, gardens – which have become evasive, unreliable, even menacing. … Objects, and the built environment, are vivified – days have distinctive smells, the fridge sings, the sky ‘whistles, as if it’s falling’, buildings are ‘respiring in weather’s / chemical glow’, and this creates an atmosphere that is potentially threatening, but also, in a way, liberating, in that it removes the restrictions on how one might experience those sights and sensations which are so familiar they often go unremarked.” – Chloe Wilson,Cordite


The Beautiful Anxiety

Winner: Victorian Premier's Literary Award for Poetry, 2015

"From my readings of The Beautiful Anxiety I noted the consistency of Jones’s attentiveness to affective and sensual registers, and to ‘all that outside / which is / being too’ (‘Sensate’). These qualities will be familiar to those who have read her earlier work, but they seem especially distilled in this collection. Not only is Jones capable of an attention-in-miniature, but also of flitting effortlessly between scales (by which I mean scales of proportion, of music, and of weight). So often she catches you unawares to extend and renew your awareness of what is." - Stu Hatton, Rochford Street Review, 2014

"Jill Jones’s The Beautiful Anxiety … finds its strength in small moments and details, and the very large resonances these can have, in the ‘ephemeral world’ for which ‘there’s barely words’, as the poem 'Grids' puts it. But what’s most interesting, and powerful, about these details is the way Jones draws them from both the elemental world — patterns of weather, nature and ecology — and human landscapes such as traffic-clogged highways and car parks, elevators and staircases, houses and offices. So too are the strange mediascapes of tabloid newspapers and music interwoven throughout the collection." - Fiona Wright, The Australian, 17 May, 2014


"Throughout The Beautiful Anxiety, corporeality and ethereality, the vast and the intimate, the personal and the (eco)political, are twinned with skilful precision, musicality, and a sense of the strange and mysterious. … With its focus on creating and collating these ephemeral moments, Jones’s invigorating linguistic play and The Beautiful Anxiety’s seamless, surprising slippages offer startling images and connections that reintroduce the reader to the world in thrilling ways." - Jo Langdon, Cordite

"Jill Jones has always been a sensual writer, a close observer of weather, cityscapes and urban detritus: … Many of the poems in her new book, The Beautiful Anxiety, are grounded in a broader perspective stemming from the experience and self-awareness of the mature writer. With a heightened consciousness of limits and relativities, this may be rich ground for the poem, but it is not necessarily a comfortable site for the subject to operate from. … There are no easy places to rest in Jones’ world—least of all in the assumptions her subjects might make about themselves. Small wonder that such a world is pervaded by anxiety: the astonishing thing is the persistent emergence of its beauties." - Martin Langford, Meanjin


Ash is Here, So are Stars

"This is not poetry as commentary, and if it resembles film it is not in the sense of ‘I am a Cinematographer’ or editor, but rather: now I’m the honey, now the bee, now the pollinating scene. If Jones’ previous poetry (which like that of all poets, changes as we read their new work) suggested the phenomenological, the experiencing denizen, now the poems themselves seem to be offering sense experiences for readers." - Michael Farrell, Sotto, March 2013

"Jones’ polyphonic, visual, ‘broken’ language draws fierce attention to the way language constructs meaning: life’s stages, love, death, past, future, culture, place. But there is a driving emotional core at the heart of this fine collection that anchors formalism to universal human desires for narrative and insight. The beauty is in the lack of resolution between these two impulses." - A. Frances Johnson, Cordite

"The poems come in fast – they swerve, they flash you with the scent of ‘Blood Bones & Diamonds’ they catch you, distracted by their songful voice and plunge you among the lanes and backstreets of the city. They turn your eyes to the graffiti on the walls and make it meaningful, then up to the ‘ghost moon bitten apple’. Jones writes better lyrics than those pretty boys with guitars strapped to their groins." - Lucy Alexander, Verity La


Dark Bright Doors

Shortlisted: Kenneth Slessor Poetry Prize, NSW Premier's Literary Awards 2011

"In 1992, Australian poet Jill Jones released a stunning debut collection of poems The Mask and the Jagged Star ... Her latest collection of poems, Dark Bright Doors, continues to explore the road less travelled. ... Her poems can be violent. They are all haunted by the same brutal truths about love and hope and the wedges that age, distance and human frailty drive between them. Dark Bright Doors exudes wide-eyed angst and a sense of discovery that's hard to put across in prose." - Hamesh Wyatt, Otago Daily Times, 19 June, 2010

"Jill Jones’s sparse lyrics, most barely filling a page, are warm, wondrous and sensual. From [the] opening image it is clear that these poems will be dark, sinuous, unsettling and enigmatic. The volume does not disappoint. It gleams. ... This is not transparent poetry. It is intelligent and elusive as well as allusive ... Portraying a dysfunctional and disquieting dystopia, Jones’s poetry is both symptomatic of and diagnostic of this fallen realm we inhabit: the Twenty-First Century. ... Yet here and there are glimpses of tranquillity ... revelling in colour, form, plane, angle and light. I cannot speak highly enough of Jill Jones’s work. She is quite simply one of the best poets writing in Australia today, and her poetry deserves a wide audience – indeed, it demands to be read." - Alison Clifton, M/C Review



These older books of mine are now out of print although they may still be obtainable either new or second-hand, and are also available through a number of libraries:

Broken/Open
Shortlisted: Kenneth Slessor Poetry Prize, NSW Premier's Literary Awards, 2006

"The result is poetry of unsettling mystery and beauty. ... [t]he art of this book lies in the precision with which it renders the glassiness of things, the shatterings, without having to say so - passionate and parodic at once, as cool as all get out."Barry Hill, The Australian

Screens Jets Heaven
Winner: Kenneth Slessor Poetry Prize, NSW Premier's Literary Awards, 2003

The Book of Possibilities  
Shortlisted: Adelaide Festival Awards, 1998
Shortlisted: National Book Council ‘Banjo’ Award for Poetry, 1997

Flagging Down Time

The Mask and the Jagged Star
Winner: Mary Gilmore Award (Association for the Study of Australian Literature),1993
Highly Commended: Ann Elder Award (Fellowship of Australian Writers),1993


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