Winner of the 1997 Akron Poetry Prize
Jeanne E. Clark heeds Dickinson’s advice to tell all the truth and tell it slant. Rather than settling for the preening gush or anecdotal flatness of much contemporary poetry, her work travels down roads named Bluelick and Slabtown to retrieve a rich sense of place and a sinewy American language. Like the best blues songs, these poems create an oblique music of leaps and gaps; they let reticence reverberate and sing.
The world of Ohio Blue Tips is a place of Marlowe beds and Coniber traps, bluegills and yellow rutabaga, pronating arches and charcoal briquets. It is an interior furnished with Moo-Cow Creamers, eyelet tableskirts, and Mae West cats. Clark’s implied narratives confront class and aspiration in the unfamed lives of Joe Silver, a retarded prisoner “whose eyes are the blue tips of kitchen matches,” and Quinn Margaret who is “Backslidden and given over / To a reprobate mind.”
Though the poems have their own gritty freshness, the sensibility is kin, perhaps, to that of Robert Creeley, Forrest Gander, Lorine Neidecker, William Carlos Williams, and C. D. Wright. In this tradition, Jeanne E. Clark recreates incendiary moments that strike like “wood against wood, Ohio Blue Tips,” and transform us forever. She “hears music, / Which is / Its own skin.”