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D. G. Jones.

Toronto, General Publishing, c1983.
(Spectrum Poetry series).
112pp, paper, $9.95.
ISBN 0-7736-1129-0.

Grades 11 and up.
Reviewed by Tony Cosier.

Volume 11 Number 5.
1983 September.

Although the title applies specifically to the thirty-six new poems that make up the final third of this collection, A Throw of Particles suits the full volume. D.G. Jones has worked consistently for twenty years. Particles we have in the main, tossed by a self-conscious salad-maker with slices of lyricism, imagery, meditation, social exchanges, and much pedantic fluff, all quiet yet imaginative, gloomy, yet full of flashing light. The roots are North American, primarily intellectual from the well-earthed American side of the Modernist split, smacking of Ezra Pound without his drive, tasting of Wallace Stevens without his humour, dogged, serious fancy.

Like the world of his "Diamond Sutra" poem, Jones keeps "dismantling the syntax, escaping/a final sentence." If he is at one point in a short lyric "an order amid bright fallen leaves," he is by the poem's end "amid loose fluttering leaves, night, your/abandoned particles." Several superficial touches are consistent with this: the bracketed expressions opened but not closed, the "? who" construction, the multi-linguistic, multi-toned vocabulary, the mixed allusions (Pratt's name beside a line from Hopkins), chopped sentences that sound well in chunks but taken together do not cohere: "He is one who rebels, would fling off this pearl, its price these downy flakes, his feathers even, till his eye enclose us like the sun."

Jones can spin a rich line, as in "the little lizard flickers down the stone" or "masts in the misty fields" or "a high wind in winter strums." He can mix the lines explosively: "Dance/then, the bonfire whirling/fossils to the black stars." When he maintains a clear focus throughout a poem, he can charm and inspire. "Snow Buntings" comes close to this in eight sustained sections, but Jones has run a concrete line so close to the abstract that with one short step backward at the poem's close, with "You must think of the birds/and make them as you will," he takes himself as poet off the hook, even takes the undirected reader off the hook, turns the whole exercise to an arbitrary poof. The best short lyrics have a simple, undeniable power. Six cows like badly built tents by the roadside are memorable. Little girls swarm and laugh and hang from railings, and we see why they are beautiful. We catch the power of the stones in a stream bed beneath the snow; we dance perfectly on one leg with a man in a cast.

Tony Cosier, Confederation H. S., Nepean, ON.
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