This Week, I Read Alison Jones’s Heartwood

Image Credit: Micah Hallahan via Unsplash

“Failing is fine, the best part of the heartwood is where you are going, with dead friends, passing through like falling mist,” the speaker assures the reader in Alison Jones’s chapbook, titled Heartwood.  The heartwood is the innermost part of a tree, which yields the hardest timber. In the book, it means more than that—it’s the meeting place of all of the people that you’ve known and cared for.

The book is chock full of well-crafted, dreamlike pieces, which wrap the reader up in a cozy, gently maudlin feeling, which (I feel) goes hand-in-hand with autumn.

My favorite piece is the poem, “Making,” which does a few really interesting things, which I’ve never seen done so well before. “Black holds everything,” the speaker says. “Like flour holds water…we once wore black for mourning. Now it can be a sign for something else.”

It’s a lovely redefinition of a color that is usually perceived to be somber.

 “Making” is the culmination of the book’s hygge vibes, particularly when the speaker lists the things which she is now using the color black to mean:

“The softness of dough, the alchemy of sunlight and earth, kissing each other into something new, to make something real out of ideas.”

The piece really surprised me. I was not expecting the ending at all, but it is now one of my favorite endings to a poem, possibly ever. The speaker says:  

“We are as old as our teeth; fragmented in blazing gardens, honey dipped for the proving, our syntax slipping though.”

There’s an undefinable space that this book inhabits. One that seems situated in between the tangible world and the other. Jones’s ability to cast a spell with her words is really impressive. The pieces seem to situate themselves in liminal spaces—on the road, in a cemetery, in the past, on the other side of the veil, and the way that she does it is completely refreshing in its originality. I highly recommend this book, which is available from Indigo Dreams Publishing.

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