REC: Jon Sanders’s Top 50

I like to snark about poetry—it doesn’t get nearly as much snark as it should because it has a sacrosanct air of “high art” and “personal expression” about it. To counter this, I thought I would launch my poetry reviews by examining some celebrities’ poetry with brutal honesty.

(Un?)fortunately for me, as I have been slowly trawling through internet poetry blogs, I’ve actually found some of that 5% of poetry that’s enjoyable. And now the snarker in me has to step aside for the admirer in me, due to Jon Sanders—that strange creature I wouldn’t have thought existed, an honest-to-God MySpace poet who… doesn’t suck? *headscratch* Damn, time to start praising and rec’cing. (But look for that snarky celeb poetry series in the future, it’s going to be awesome!)

It’s not exactly difficult to find Jon on the online poetry scene: the 28-year-old Californian promotes his poetry on a homepage, a Facebook group, and a MySpace—and probably a few other places I haven’t discovered yet. I myself bookmarked Jon while he was #2 on PoetryBlogRankings list (#1 on such lists is always overrated), and, sure enough, right now he’s my favorite online poet: whimsical, imaginative, but down-to-earth at the same time. Lyrical, too. I almost hate to say “There’s a musical quality to his poetry,” because, damn it all, people say that all the time and God alone knows what they mean by it. But I feel pretty confident about saying that Jon’s poems remind me of the pleasures you get from ballads, or blues, or raps. Yeah, people might say this about poets all the time, but not every poet has people putting his poetry to music.

Jon’s very productive, with 347 poems listed on his homepage, and, like most productive poets, the quality of his efforts is definitely uneven. Apparently he recognizes this, as he has a list of his Top 50, which is definitely what I recommend to anyone checking him out for the first time. Though I’m not in love with every poem on the list, they show his range of topic, interest, and form, and the titles alone are enough to delight: “Is It Still Called Drowning?”, “An Idiot’s Guide to Flying,” “A Bottle of God,” “You’ve gotta draw the line… somewhere.”

My absolute favorite on the list—the best damn online original I’ve ever read, poetry-wise—is “The Multifaceted Nature of Rope.” First off, my friends, rope is inherently cool. We learned that from Sam Gamgee. Also, this poem is Chapter 4 in Sanders’s “The Ten Things I’ve Learned From Wise Men and Fools” series—which is (point one!) a poetry series and (point two!) a poetry series with an awesome name. I was disposed to like this piece from the beginning, and it didn’t disappoint:

I’ve got ropes where my arms should be…

This poem has got the whole package: it’s deeply personal, as people expect online poetry to be *looks shiftily at One Day One Poem corpus*, but it combines confessionalism with real workmanship. The result is one hell of an experience that works at the emotional and the intellectual level.

The free verse has form held together subtly but expertly, as if rope were the inspiration for the structure as well as the symbolism. There’s not a false word in this poem: the vocabulary of both the direct (non-italic) and the meditative (italic) voice is just perfect.

The final line, by the way, is just as good as the opener that I quoted above—far better, in fact—but I won’t spoil it for you. Go read it here and give the man some props. Other particular favorites of mine on his Top 50 are “if sleeping is dreaming and dreaming is you” and “An Image of a Shattering Clock.” Let me—and, more pressingly, Jon—know what your favorites are.

Good reading!
WP

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