Cover image for Kingdom of the instant
Kingdom of the instant
Jones, Rodney, 1950-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Boston : Houghton Mifflin, [2002]

Physical Description:
104 pages ; 22 cm
Format :


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Material Type
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PS3560.O5263 K56 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



Many of the poems in Kingdom of the Instant attend to a particular moment - to the individual existing in one place at the time life is lived.Some of them, like 'Keeping Time,' are urgent, even ominous ('To be there with it, tock to its tick, mud / to its chink').In others, the approach to the instant is dilatory, relaxed, as in one of the long poems, 'Ten Sighs from a Sabbatical' ('Let loose.Lists into ashes.Tasks into stones'). The poet also addresses natural history and the environment; religiosity, the history and encumbrances of class, regionalism, and the American South; and the act of making poetry. There are homages to a number of masters, ranging from Wallace Stevens to Mississippi John Hurt, but concrete references give way to the fleeting impression, the given moment, the kingdom of the instant that Rodney Jones so strongly evokes. He is, line by line, sound by sound, at the top of his form.

Author Notes

Winner of the 1989 National Book Critics Circle Award, Rodney Jones is a professor of English at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

Jones, who won the 1989 NBCC Award for Transparent Gestures, writes sweetly mordant poems that name (and absolve) instances of hypocrisy, futility, and joy. In "A Whisper Fight at the Peck Funeral Home," the immediate, ambivalent responses of the living to the presence of the dead are aired to mild commentary: "even the widow chuckling/ as she dabbed at one eye"; a mortician who, having restored the corpse of a teen-age drunk-driver, hears that "You've done a wonderful job,/ only Ronnie's hair was brown, not red." But while Jones, a professor at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale and former Guggenheim fellow, is constantly aware of his role as curator of the Southern gothic (he quotes Faulkner on Mississippi's two cities: "Memphis and New Orleans"; a passage in "Ten Sighs from a Sabbatical" relates studying with an unnamed genteel modernist), he's happier to dispense sympathy than disgust. Worms, Kafka and fingerpicking make frequent appearances; occasionally there are unaffected signs of a transcendental strain, influence, as when in "Channel," he writes of a day's catch, "You hold them/ carefully. You listen, and they say your name in ancient Catfish." Certain habits here verbed nouns (e.g. "apaloosaed" and "humaned"), colloquial placeholders ("it's like that here" and "I thought of it today"), and portentous last lines ("There are no honorary Negroes"; "The name of joy is music"; "The Kingdom / of the instant against the democracy of all time") may grate. But given Jones's insistence on getting at the truth, these misdemeanors shouldn't be a hindrance to his pursuit of better things. (Sept.) Forecast: Jones's most recent collection, Elegy for the Southern Drawl (1999), was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. This highly accessible book should please regular readers, but awards panels and national reviewers will probably wait for a selected for further recognition. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Booklist Review

Jones is a poet of the South, the church, the funeral home, and the sixties, writing from pleasingly oblique angles about art and politics, poverty and privilege, and the trilling, leaping realm of birds and dogs. In his seventh collection, the winner of the National Book Critics Circle award evinces a swinging insouciance, a dancer's syncopated toe-to-heel beat and joyful body-blurring whirling, that belies the intensity of his loving regard for every aspect of life from the grit of earth to the silk of skin, and all that churns in the mind: frustrated dreams of justice and transcendence, meditations on death, and piquant awareness of such crimes as prejudice, genocide, and the poisoning of the planet and the concomitant suffering of such innocent and perfect creatures as frogs. Lyrical, angry, bemused, and very witty, Jones revisits his boyhood, portrays family and neighbors, pays tribute to Mississippi John Hurt, muses on Jesus, and presents conundrums and revelations intrinsic to the human predicament that are by turns perverse and liberating. --Donna Seaman

Library Journal Review

Like his previous volumes of poetry (e.g., Things That Happen Once), Jones's seventh book continues to explore the "happiness and tragedy" of the American South. In poems about growing up in north Alabama, he remembers "the sucky mush, swamp gas, and beavered willows" as he reconnects with his days fishing for catfish ("whiskered like Confucius") and traveling to the cattle auction. The memory of "church dinners, weddings, and harvests" is deepened by empathy for victims: "Richard Nitz, gay-basher,/ threw Michael Miley's axed-off head" into a lake. In contrast, "Homage to Mississippi John Hurt" celebrates "the tink and clong of a guitar" rising from a subconscious of "dark mud." Probing mortality and time, Jones creates a "kingdom of the instant" in lush, inventive imagery that dramatizes each moment. Following the complex legacy of James Dickey and Charles Wright, two other poets with a Southern background, the best of these poems reveal the real-life roots of a region that has suffered and endured. Frank Allen, Northampton Community Coll., Tannersville, PA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Keeping TimeTo be in there with it, tock to its tick,mud to its chink, oh, but running, unthinking, alive, lurid, unprepossessing, liquid, mercurial, lucky scalpel, leap, love cry,music sticking from the violin.I said it, oh, and then it said to me: no more leaden introspection, have foot and no boundary, no second choosing, but this thought here going, too late- tailwater of its pure, untrammeled flowing.Downtime looms in the mouths of statues. Slow time looks back. Change screams, The docks are all empty, the ships gone away. In the sea there, bobbing and being immersed. Why loiter over the petri dishs bloom?Why linger? Why why when when wicks the flesh right off the bone: what curl and sheen of unbridled delirium takes? How imagine otherwise lifted and set down, the solid crock and rabble of other years?This one here, now, well put: where did I forget? Where trial gulped its long meal by drummed and finger-fiddled desks. Why excavate recite and not compose, the static fact and not the moving spring? When did kiss go? When flower power? Why when when where shows mold-wallows of hard and tender raptures, gene pools place held: cinder stones beside a track. Pick one up and throw it at the train.The quick and slow go side by side. What will get the girl to the dance? Bluster or trudge? And what do you do with your hands while making love? The elephant circle? The tour de corps?The luminous moment continues to grow freshets of everlastingness, the flow here unarchived in the only place life possibles out of unlikelihood, shrinks from being, leaves only thought.Snakeskin on the doorsill, reliquary in which all forms of nudity contrive when the thing has wriggled on, grown gigantic beyond losses and gains: 1967 and 1981. Reckon,bog down in corrections, or reanimate, this time with a tad more spice in the curry, a seven instead of a five. Drumroll this desk: letters, a map of the hot fishing spots in the lakewhere Richard Nitz, gay-basher, threw Michael Mileys axed-off head; empty cigarette packs; Praise God Im Satisfied by Blind Willie Johnson; and a telephone on top of it all.But event resists the word. It happened earlier, a shining thing among reschedulings and cancellations, late March, sunlight on daffodils, the stab wound of "Auld Lang Syne."Tongue knowledge needs grunt and sigh. Who need remark much on why the mating cardinals oh mama brings a snatch of the hesitation blues? To see two things at once is one thing.Not genius, work. The night is coming, sweet hour of prayer. Shall we bring in the sheaves, gather at the river? Clone a better sheep? Here now, need you know the very bird?Who justifies Little Richard to Beethoven? The critique of creation is a shriek. Slow was my downfall, but love raised me like a lily from the ground. Long ago, she brought me into round. A Whisper Fight at the Peck Funeral Home1 No balm in heaven. Bone light. Things tick as they desiccate.Immaterial Excerpted from The Kingdom of the Instant: Poems by Rodney Jones All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

One Keeping Timep. 3
A Whisper Fight at the Peck Funeral Homep. 6
Two Channelp. 21
Smokep. 22
Small Lower-Middle-Class White Southern Malep. 24
Slop: A Children"s Prayerp. 25
A Country Legacyp. 27
A Defense of Poetryp. 29
Macabre Etudep. 31
Family Mattressp. 32
Homage to Mississippi John Hurtp. 33
Three Backwardp. 39
Five Walks for the Nineteenth Centuryp. 42
The Music of Reposep. 53
Brainsp. 56
Nudesp. 58
Bufusp. 61
Fidelityp. 63
Bones with No Meat on Themp. 65
Four A Photograph in an Old Anthologyp. 69
Ten Sighs from a Sabbaticalp. 71
Woodp. 81
The Harvest Kingp. 82
Goingp. 83
Pompadourp. 84
The Roommate, 1969p. 85
Paradisep. 86
Five Divine Lovep. 91
Mosesp. 101
Song of Affirmationp. 103