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When the Only Light Is Fire

4.42  ·  Rating details ·  188 ratings  ·  23 reviews
In his debut chapbook of poetry, Saeed Jones walks on the periphery of the South, those places on the outskirts of town, in bars after midnight, and on dangerous backroads where most people keep their heads down or look the other way. Through Texas and Tennessee, Alabama and the riverbeds of the Mississippi, these poems wrap themselves in cloaks of masks and comfort; garme ...more
Paperback, 44 pages
Published October 18th 2011 by Sibling Rivalry Press, LLC (first published January 1st 2011)
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Paris (parisperusing)
Saeed Jones’ debut chapbook of poetry, WHEN THE ONLY LIGHT IS FIRE, is not just a riot of the black man — but of the gay black boy caged inside him. I found sanctum in so many of these poems, among them: “Kudzu,” a hankering verse about how nothing breaks the heart like what it cannot have; “Nocturne,” in which death flexes its ubiquitous pull on the living; “Daedalus, After Icarus,” a fable of a grief-stricken father whose son dies of his own invention; and “Boy at Edge of Woods,” where boys di ...more
Nov 15, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Saeed Jones
When the Only Light Is Fire
Sibling Rivalry Press
44 pages
Red Haircrow
May 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I'd first come across the collection in search of a purchase to better understand a press, and the description really stood out for me. Although I was born in Germany and live in Berlin now, many of my formulative years were spend in the southern U.S. in the states of Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina and Louisana, and these are some of the places the poet grew up.

"Saeed Jones walks on the periphery of the South, those places on the outskirts of town, in bars after midnight, and on dan
Nov 21, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Saeed Jones' mythology is of ruined small towns and their biblical ghosts, the humming bush and men at the edge of it, and a beautiful boy dancing through grief and lust in a dress of smoke. The lyricism and sex of these poems and their hot song, will prick your page turning fingers bloody. ...more
Aug 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I read the entire thing through on my lunch hour, accidentally. It was just that urgent and visceral, goes directly into the vein without having to filter through the brain. I'll have to read through again for a more cerebral impression.

Absolutely should be at the top of any list of must-read contemporary southern poets. The "Jasper" poems, my god...
•Paige Hope•
Aug 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
After reading Saeed Jones’ memoir, “How We Fight For Our Lives,” I found it just wasn’t enough. His talent with self expression somehow embeds beautiful treasures into monotony and emotional turmoil. Lots of authors are capable of as much, but something about the way his light hits the heart is different. Jones writes unseen images into minds, while persuading them to reimagine forms of each one later on.

“Last night, the ceiling above me ached with dance. Music dropped down the walls like rain
Jun 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
There are snippets this book trained me to search for in the words. The moments where the narrator's sense of self connect and grow. Though a little short, this is what a collected work of poems looks like, for me. ...more
May 12, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
beautiful, sensuous poetry though many (most?) of these can also be found in Jones's full-length collection, Prelude to Bruise ...more
Luke Gorham
Sep 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
Essentially a rough draft of Prelude to Bruise.
Jun 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
Sep 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Intimate, intense poetry. Some of the best poetry I have read.
Matthew Metzdorf
Jul 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
jones has a good ear for language and writes some piercing pieces here. it's been a while since i've read prelude to bruise but i believe many appear in both volumes and have a strong impact in each. ...more
Feb 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"Hunger is who we are / under a black lacquered moon," asserts Saeed Jones at the beginning of the very last entry in this pitch-perfect collection of darkly radiant poems. And, indeed, it is the transmutation of the past into the hungers that run through it, like rivers or hunters, by the mis-eclipsed light of a moon turned to night, that we can see unites the divergent identities plotted out in these poems - whether they be outlaw, intimate, world-making; or empty, enslaved and just plain evil ...more
Dec 26, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Full of emotion and vivid storytelling, this is by far one of my favorite collections of poetry. I experienced everything from lust with Kudzu to painful grief with Jasper, 1998, I, II, and III. In fact, I tried to read these three poems to my partner and became too choked up to do so. The second actually brought me to tears. I'm not easily drawn to showing emotional responses in life, and for these poems to do this is a strong testament to their strength. ...more
Jan 17, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: library-owns, poetry
Very sensual, frequently ... sad(?), and sometimes horrifying -- thinking about his Jasper sequence, about the murder of James Boyd, Jr. It gave me chills.

I'm only an occasional reader of poetry and sometimes unsure how the cadence should go, so was happy to find a few clips of the author reading his work online. Here's The Blue Dress in Mother's Closet.
Jun 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
"Cinders drift in from a fire we can't see."

"We're dry tinder. Water won't answer our questions anymore..."

When the Only Light Is Fire is Saeed Jones' debut chapter book collection of poems. Much like his memoir, his writing style in his poems is honest, intense and filled with imagery that captures the readers attention from the start.
Joshua Gage
Apr 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is a very deep and profound chapbook of poetry. Jones taps into the erotic as well as the political in this collection, exploring sexuality, race, southern politics, and more in these dense, lyrical poems. A very excellent collection.
Rachel Simone
Jul 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Admittedly, I don't read a lot of poetry and often feel dumb while reading it. Saeed Jones' writing is visceral and vivid. I look forward to reading more from him! ...more
May 23, 2015 rated it liked it
There are moments here when poetry is everything. The Jasper series is fantastic. Prelude to a Bruise with its repetition is both sexy and haunting.
Andrea Blancas
Dec 22, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
Haunting. I'm still spinning. The opening line of "Meridian" reads: "Cinders drift in/from a fire we can't see." That fire leaves us burning for more. That fire is Saeed Jones. ...more
Powerful, lyric poetry that paints wonderfully brutal, sexual, racial, and steamiy pictures, mostly set in rural areas and the South.
Robert Vaughan
Mar 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A fantastic, sensual, dark emergence from this first book, and emerging talented poet. Brilliant use of captivating language and stirring imagery. I recommend this book!
Apr 14, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2016, poetry, chapbook
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rated it it was amazing
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James Dempsey
rated it it was ok
Dec 23, 2020
rated it it was amazing
Aug 10, 2016
Annie Parso
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Dec 31, 2011
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Saeed Jones is the author of the memoir How We Fight for Our Lives, winner of the 2019 Kirkus Prize for Nonfiction, the 2020 Stonewall Book Award/Israel Fishman Non-fiction Award, and a 2020 Lambda Literary Award. He is also the author of the poetry collection Prelude to Bruise, winner of the 2015 PEN/Joyce Osterweil Award for Poetry and the 2015 Stonewall Book Award/Barbara Gittings Literature Aw ...more

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38 likes · 14 comments
“I’ve lined my throat
with the river bottom’s best

allowed my fingers to shrivel
and be taken for crawfish.

I’ve laced my eyelashes with algae.

I blink emerald.
I blink sea glass green.

I am whatever gleams
just under the surface.

Scoop at my sparkle. I’ll give you nothing
but disturbed reflection.

Bring your ear to the water
and I’ll sing you

down into my arms.

Let me show you how

to make your lungs
a home for minnows, how

to let them flicker

like silver

in and out of your mouth
like last words,

like air.”
More quotes…