A Poem Of Common Prayer by Larry Jones

- A Single Volume.
- 128 pages.
- Trade Paperback.
- American contemporary poetry collection by a single author.

Design and Layout: C. D. Johnson
Publishers: Rogue Scholars Press

ISBN 13: 978-0-9840982-2-4

Copyright © 2017 by Lawrence Worth Jones

 


 

Upon arriving in New York in the early 70s, Lawrence Worth Jones was quickly swept up into "The Plastic Exploding Inevitable" of Andy Warhol's coterie. Through the 90s, Larry was the Artistic Director of "Cafe Nico," his poetry, painting and performance venue at 101 Avenue A. A lifelong acolyte of his original mentor, Kenneth Koch, he has taught literature and creative writing to gifted and talented youth at Long Island University and Hofstra University for many years. An Associate of the Academy of American Poets, his work has appeared in numerous literary magazines and anthologies. His biography is published in Marquis Who's Who in America.

 

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“Given the expanse between the heretical and the ecstatic in this collection of poems by Larry Jones, one might be prone to speculate that he was the object of considerable parochial abuse through his formative years. Best when paired with a glass of whiskey and chased with an open heart.”
– Genna Riviecchio, Editor-in-Chief of The Opiate magazine and blogger of such popular columns as Literary Bitch.

“Here, in this intensely confessional work, by Larry Jones, the space of our lives becomes close, almost claustrophobic, even his meter closes things down further, until from this compressed place one gets the feeling, though maybe not consciously, things will explode and expand. And they do, but without them falling apart as a result of it. For, always the humanist, his compassion and humor keep everything together.”
– Armando Jaramillo-Garcia, author of The Portable Man, Prelude Books, 2017.

“Pious, homey and a heartful of quintessential Jones quirkiness; at once deeply Catholic and deeply not. He gingerly dabs a finely detailed brush and blends Oklahoma and Judeo-Christianity with his teenage reverence for J. D. Salinger, and the mix is unique. It's a smart, sexy, and gay religious challenge, a piquant charmer.”
– Ellen Aug Lytle, author of homefront: new and selected poems. The New York Quarterly Foundation, Inc., 2013.

“These poems bring me great joy, for I hear again the singular voice of a friend I have missed for so long, the eloquent, theatrical, self-effacing, sad, loving, funny, transcendent Larry Jones. But enough with the adjectives. Read the book!”
– Merrill Cole, author of The Other Orpheus: A Poetics of Modern Homosexuality. Routledge, 2003.

 

Foreword

I must have already been fifteen or sixteen by the time I was first confronted by J. D. Salinger’s story “Franny”, whose setting is over lunch with a boyfriend, Lane, prior to his presumably Ivy League mater’s football game against Yale.  When she returns to their table after recovering from an episode of dizziness and nausea, he questions her about the small book she has been carrying.  She nonchalantly responds that it is titled The Way of a Pilgrim, the story of how a Russian wanderer learns the power of “praying without ceasing.”

The prayer in play is “The Jesus Prayer,” the mantra “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me,” internalized to a point where it becomes unconscious, like a heartbeat.  So essentially this is the story of a nice Jewish girl from the Upper East Side of Manhattan mesmerizing herself in a Catholic requiem which becomes a Zen koan.  When after her disclosure Franny faints, Lane tends to her until she regains consciousness, postpones the weekend’s events, hails a tax for her, and leaves Franny, who is still praying without ceasing.

This present selection of my poems harkens back to that initial reading of Salinger’s story, and to Dante’s of “the love that moves the sun and other stars,” through a spring semester with Paul Ruggiers, a distinguished Jesuit scholar who taught at the University of Oklahoma at the time.  Admittedly, my identification with the Judeo-Christian tradition is largely incidental; had I been born somewhere other than Biblically belted Norman Oklahoma, I might well have been inclined toward Buddhism, Islam, etc. (then again there may well be something nominative going on, Jones being a derivation from John, St. John the Baptist having been the disciple to proclaim Christ, something perhaps both semiotic and symbolic).

The eventual assembly of this collection evolved in what educators refer to backward design, an objective for a curriculum being determined and then strategies toward it devised.  Just prior writing another of my raunchy” ditties, “Peepshow,” I vowed to next subject myself to a sustained, spiritual, interrogation; “five stations,” a rather apparent evocation of T. S. Eliot’s “Four Quartets,” followed.  The collection then began to reassemble itself along the strata of that sequence.  (I continue to find myself amused with the knowledge that Hunter College, my thrice-fold alma mater, declined Thomas Stearns a faculty position early in his career, a history courtesy former Hunter and Princeton professor, and John Berryman drinking buddy, James Williams).

And so these were the origins of a poem of common prayer, perhaps best characterized as a collision and collusion between Eliotic apology and Whitmanic queer theory.  The impact of my initial encounter with Franny Glass some fifty years hence continues to haunt me in an oddly reassuring way.  Yes the possibility of the ability to pray without ceasing, to quote the close to the last line to my last poem herein, “a love poem being a prayer” that, in fact, something, or one, greater than ourselves does indeed love us.

L.W.J.

 


 

 

 


 

 

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