Imaginary Logic

Imaginary Logic

by Rodney Jones


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A new collection from a Kingsley Tufts Award–winning poet

Imaginary Logic is a brilliantly expansive, deeply meditative, and at times wildly imaginative collection of poems that combines Rodney Jones’s distinctive storytelling ability, sharp social intelligence, and keen powers of observation in a book that is wistful, satiric, audacious, and remorseless.

“The Art of Heaven” opens with a parody of Dante and a down-home, twisted humor that Jones’s readers have come to rely on: “In the middle of my life I came to a dark wood, / the smell of barbecue, kids running in the yards. / Not deep depression. This nice hell of suburbs. / Speed bumps. The way things aren’t quite paradise.”

Rodney Jones, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award, is one of America’s “best, most generous, and most brilliantly readable poets” (Poetry). Imaginary Logic is the most eloquent expression yet of his rigorous mind, scrupulous eye, and capacious heart.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780547840208
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing
Publication date: 03/21/2018
Pages: 96
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.23(d)

About the Author

RODNEY JONES is the author of eleven books of poems. His many honors include the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Harper Lee Award, and the Kingsley Tufts Award, and he has been a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Award, the Griffin International Poetry Prize, and the Pulitzer Prize. He teaches in the low-residency MFA creative writing program at Warren Wilson College and lives in New Orleans and Southern Illinois.

Read an Excerpt

In the Days of Magical Realism

I went everywhere with invisible
camera crew and musicians.
Portaged by lust, convinced it was beauty.

Washington, early spring, 1976,
three girls moving away from the cab,
speaking French, as I crawled in,

and one, faux-blond, with pearls,
decked out in hotpants and shawl —

I saw her as a zoologist sees a pet
detransmogrifying from a carpet

and was wondering might this ideal
suggest goddess, hooker, or model

when the look she threw back over one shoulder
rendered into stone the eyes
with which I had seen myself.

Voice Making the Sounds of Engines

Aging imaginary playmates,
arbiters of loneliness
and childhood, have they
fallen on hard times,
sleeping under bridges
and eating from trash bins?

When I knew them,
they already had wives,
experience in the military,
and full-time jobs:
mechanic, truck driver,
steam shovel engineer.

In the shadows under
the house of women,
they used to help me
with heavy equipment,
laying out boulevards
for a city of missing men.

Idols, stooges, parrot
and laminate of vox
mundi, backfiring, doubleclutching,
from this distance
they seem stalled
in the fifties and leaking grease.

Except for the clean,
well-spoken one,
twisting his mustache
like an appellate judge
or ambassador from
the commonwealth of mothers.

And the rooster Caesar,
worm-poaching with
harem and sycophants.
Vuden, vuden, we would go,
and he would show us
the nature of masculinity.


The new house had the air
of a stationary ark
ready to set out: the flood
a freshet in each faucet,

the shine and lacquer smell,
pecan floors, transfigurations
of porcelain and enamel.
Each plug-in was an owl’s face

being attacked by a snake.
The fear that he might slip
and flush down the toilet
balanced his wishing

the Apaches could leap
from the television. Meanwhile,
since the carpenters
had left a few light boards

stacked by the door, he plundered
the vacant house in the field
for wings, six years old
with an airplane to build.


Table of Contents


In the Days of Magical Realism 3
Voice Making the Sounds of Engines 4
Ambition 6
On Fiction 7
The Competition of Prayers 9
On Criticism 12
Feelings, by Ashley Higgins 13
The Elementary Principles of Rhetoric 15
The Heaven of Self-Pity 16
The Ante 17
Confidential Advice 19
Starstruck 21
The End of Practice 23
Winning 25
Metaphors for the Trance 27
Rememberer 28
Hubris at Zunzal 30
Last Man Standing 31

Two Quick Scenes from the Late Sixties 35
The Essence of Man 39
Deathly 41
In Media Res 43
What Is True for a Minute 45
The Previous Tenants 47
Cathedral 57

The Art of Heaven 61
The Moons: Notes on the Formation of Self 64
The Poem of Fountains 67
The Trip to Opelika 71
The Eviction 75
North Alabama Endtime 78
Lines for the Joe Wheeler Rural Electric Cooperative 81

Acknowledgments 83

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