The Fool by Jessie Jones

The Fool is Jessie Jones’s first collection of luminous poems. When reading The Fool, I was struck with the same feelings I get when I read the poetry of Arthur Rimbaud; images bloom in each line, like dreams, making me want to reread each poem just to experience them a while longer. Jones is a skilled poet: her stanzas are measured on the page and she often plays with vowels and assonance, urging the reader to deepen their experience by reading the poems aloud. You may be tempted, as I was, to rush through the poems because of their neat appearance, but I found myself reading each poem slowly over again to fully appreciate Jones’s images.

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The details in each poem are striking. The speaker in these poems is often contemplative about themselves and the details of their surroundings. The speaker notices the lines in their own face in the mirror (“My old face”), and also remember the freckled chest of a gambler on an unlucky trip to Vegas (“House advantage”). I loved the speaker’s attention to the details we may overlook as we speed through life.

The speaker often speaks in the third person, but is especially arresting when they address the reader directly, as in the poem “Self-improvement”, in which they seem to speak to all of us, right now, as we try in vain to reinvent ourselves while at home in isolation. The speaker lists the many skills “you” have piled on over the past months:

You nix the bread, complicate
equations. Pace treadmills
like they’re hot coals so the calories

burn. Your teeth ache
from the bleached white
centre you draw out of them. (71)

“The details in each poem are striking.”

rachel fernandes

By the end of the poem, the speaker reminds us that try as we might, we have not transformed ourselves in isolation—we are still ourselves in quarantine, and not better versions of ourselves. We continue to hide under layers of skills and things—distractions. But the speaker is sympathetic, they seem to understand that we are always trying to begin again. The collection itself contributes to this idea of continuous striving without arriving. “The Fool” is divided into sections beginning with “0” and moving through “I”, “II”, and “III” before finishing on a final section also called “0”. The structure suggests a cycle that will begin again, even after it sinks into nothing.

I recommend adding The Fool to your reading list while staying at home this winter. It is the perfect opportunity to slow down and engage with Jones’s stunning images and enjoy a bright new voice in poetry.

Jessie Jones grew up on the Prairies, spent a decade on Vancouver Island, and now calls Montreal home. Her work has been shortlisted for the Malahat Review’s Open Season Poetry Award, Arc’s Poem of the Year contest, and PRISM International’s Poetry Contest.

  • Publisher : icehouse poetry (Sept. 8 2020)
  • Paperback : 96 pages
  • ISBN-10 : 1773101757
  • ISBN-13 : 978-1773101750

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Rachel Fernandes was raised in Ottawa, where she completed her Honours BA and MA in English at the University of Ottawa. She is now based in Kingston, where she is a PhD Candidate studying contemporary North American literature. Her research focuses on mixed race identity in various genres, including memoir, poetry, and the novel.
Over the last decade, she has published a smattering of poems through small presses such as In/Words, Joypuke, Coven, and Feathertale, and served on the editorial boards of The Ottawa Arts Review and The Lamp Literary Journal. She loves reading even more than she loves writing, and is excited to share and discuss new Canadian work through The Miramichi Reader.