Swept with quiet, dizzying drama, Village Prodigies imagines the town of Cold Springs over a period of more than fifty years. Rhyming J.M. Barrie, Herman Melville, Samuel Beckett, and Eudora Welty, Jones also takes on new questions and forms, experimenting with convention and time, the analog and the digital. Working within a multiplicity of points-of-view and techniques, the poems play with the spaces around invention and memory, creating portals through which we travel between moments and characters, from the interior mind to the most exterior speech, from delusions to rational thought. Village Prodigies opens with Beckett, then slips into the experience of Alzheimer’s for both family and patient—examining the consciousness of dementia shot through with moments of lucidity. Then come schooldays, Vietnam, a chicken factory in Mexico, video games, cross-country trips…all weave into a crescendo of wildness and meaning in a psychotic episode.
In two “books” and nine poetic “chapters” Rodney Jones aims for a novelistic wholeness and very much takes up a challenge which, he says, is “the old one, to keep the reader in suspense.” Fans of Jones’s previous work will find much of what they loved again here, but Village Prodigies will also bring in many new readers to his work, and to poetry.
“A novel in language as dense and lush and beautiful as poetry . . . [or] a book of poetry with the vivid characters and the narrative force of a novel? Whatever you care to call it, it’s a remarkable achievement.” –Richard Russo, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Empire Falls