1. Clara B. Jones — Collected Grid Poems


If we are to truly delve into lived experience, to return to lived experience, we must shed our binaries.

This becomes evident in Clara B. Jones’s Collected Grid Poems, where the relationships between chaos and order come into question. Her grids imply an organization, a (boxed-in) categorization, but where we are simultaneously drawn into the uncertainty of how to navigate our reading. Do we move from column to column in a left to right fashion or from row to row? Or do we follow discerned motifs within the content particular to each box, and connect them to other boxes within a more complicated geometric movement? Even within the lists outside of the grids, our eyes jump over clumps of words in the effort to make connections. And there lies the secret: movement.

Movement may be our greatest testament to the truths to which each of us subscribes, where modernity has slowed into its perfunctory stasis of binary-driven categorization—a Mark-Fisherian nowhere forever—at which point Jones deadpans, I exist on the margins, seeking a way out. These margins play upon the race (and afrobot) motif that soaks each of these poems. But that’s the jouissance implicit in her writing. She is not as concerned with finding herself within these boxed-in/checked-off representations as she is with transcending these categorizations of selfie importance, and she’s there, on her own, poking holes in the fabricated fabric on the outskirts, only to peer into what looms: the earth’s rising temperatures and the age of imperial machines. She knows, Chaos is as close as we get to god where order has failed us, where Afrobots are defined by a field in Iowa where long rows of corn lead nowhere, where Chaos is as close as we get to Truth where order has failed us.

Jones’s poems, themselves, exist on the margins, closer to where chaos and order were never apart, where they do not fit in with the internal logic of grammar and syntax. Instead, they interact with readers, not through referential and representational content, but rather through a vocabulary based on erasure. [Marjorie, is that you?!] For where there is movement, there is interaction; where there is interaction, there is movement. These, too, are one in the same, and still are—only, we, the people, have been swapped out for the currents of currency.

Here, Jones supplies us with the longitudes and latitudes of grids, not as maps towards new directions, but maps fashioned from our modern sticks and stones and reminding us how out of fear, we’ve wrested and vacuum-sealed order from chaos. Through Jones’s grids we see this fragmented state of our stasis in the midst of impending doom, but are no longer standing in our brands beneath the shadow; instead, we scatter to despair desperately on the margins of this sticky web where the ping-pong vibrations of our bodies and screams salivate the many mouths of our end.

—Michael Martrich

Special thanks to Lola Galla for the cover photo.

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