Jill Jones, ‘The Beautiful Anxiety’ in The Australian

Poets home in on tradition 

Fiona Wright reviews Jill Jones’ The Beautiful Anxiety in The Australian, May 17 2014


Jill Jones’s The Beautiful Anxiety.. finds its strength in small moments and details, and the very large resonances these can have, in the ‘‘ephemeral world’’ for which ‘‘there’s barely words’’, as the poem Grids puts it. But what’s most interesting, and powerful, about these details is the way Jones draws them from both the elemental world — patterns of weather, nature and ecology — and human landscapes such as traffic-clogged highways and car parks, elevators and staircases, houses and offices. So too are the strange mediascapes of tabloid newspapers and music interwoven throughout the collection.

At times, these elements are allowed to morph and blend into each other, as in the dexterous poem Wave, where traffic, tickets, the sky, a blind man, exhaust, your bag and numbers all recur in different permutations as the poem progresses, each ‘‘beautiful’’ by turns, and each made startling and unusual by the different combinations they are placed in.

This shifting is most evident in the two sequences of the collection, My Ruined Lyrics, a kind of elegy for the poet’s mother, and Six Temperamental Sonnets, concerned with environmental degradation and change.

But it is the title poem in this collection that stands out. The Beautiful Anxiety is a powerful and almost painful poem, written in a displaced second-person address, collecting tiny points of damage, and moments of uncertainty and chance, alongside moments of the sublime:

There’s nothing purely accidental
in your edgy condition.
Damage seems almost a necessity.
If there’s beauty in patina, it’s here
not just waiting for the cracks
in the permanent. It’s subcutaneous
like a language that entered you
without stamps of approval.

All three of these collections are underpinned by a keen sense of humour, as well as experimentation with form and linguistic registers. Yet they never lose touch with tenderness, with human relationships, and the relations between people and the world.

Fiona Wright

Read the full review in The Australian

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