by Ashley M. Jones
Hub City Press
Reparations Now! asks for what's owed.
In formal and non-traditional poems, award-winning poet Ashley M. Jones calls for long-overdue reparations to the Black descendants of enslaved people in the United States of America. In this, her third collection, Jones deftly takes on the worst of today -- state-sanctioned violence, pandemic-induced crises, and white silence -- all while uplifting Black joy. These poems explore trauma past and present, cultural and personal: the lynching of young, pregnant Mary Turner in 1918; the current white nationalist political movement; a case of infidelity. These poems, too, are a celebration of Black life and art: a beloved grandmother in rural Alabama, the music of James Brown and Al Green, and the soil where okra, pole beans, and collards thrive thanks to her father's hands.
By exploring the history of a nation where "Black oppression's not happenstance; it's the law," Jones links past harm to modern heartache and prays for a peaceful world where one finds paradise in the garden in the afternoon with her family, together, safe, and worry-free. While exploring the ways we navigate our relationships with ourselves and others, Jones holds us all accountable, asking us to see the truth, to make amends, to honor one another.
"In a book that is balancing history, trauma, rage, and joy as brilliantly as Reparations Now! is, there must be something beyond language that grips and holds a reader in place. For this, I am thankful for the generosity of this book, how the poems are shaped, how they challenge the eye as well as the ear, with rich payoffs at the end. I am thankful for the population of this book -- how it bursts with ancestors and homages, places rendered so stunningly that they are present and touchable. What a massive undertaking, and what an achievement." -- Hanif Abdurraqib, author of A Fortune For Your Disaster and A Little Devil in America
"Our present day, as well as the days at our backs, are stunned by their own particular sorrow. There is much lamentation to disorder the air. There are legions of hushed black bodies. There is that numbing loneliness, the taciturn breaking of hearts in the midst of chaos. But there is also, always, James Brown's unearthly squeal, his miraculous camelwalk. There is a mother's blaze-warm voice on the line from home. There is God in a father's hands, in Mahalia's reverent wail, in a sunlit home. Here in these pages of unerring witness, the poet reckons with a seemingly ceaseless grief while acknowledging the light that keeps us facing forward--the fact that being beautiful and black does not require a revolution." -- Patricia Smith, author of Incendiary Art, Finalist for the Pulitzer Prize
"Ashley M. Jones is a genius in how she wields, innovates, and wades through a bounty of poetic forms (sonnets, an aubade, a ghazal, a contrapuntal, anaphora, the subjunctive mode and so much more) with a sense of mastery, levity, and play. This collection is jam-packed with music, grace, and grit. I felt loved and seen by Reparations Now! The book is a personal mix CD in verse curated by Black bliss and brilliance. I kept dog-earring pages for prompts and poems I wanted to read again until I realized the whole collection was mangled by my enthusiastic appreciation and inspiration." --Tiana Clark, author of I Can't Talk About the Trees Without the Blood
About the Author:
Ashley M. Jones holds an MFA in Poetry from Florida International University, and she is the author of Magic City Gospel (Hub City Press 2017), dark / / thing (Pleiades Press 2019), and REPARATIONS NOW! (Hub City Press 2021). Her poetry has earned several awards, including the Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers Award, the Silver Medal in the Independent Publishers Book Awards, the Lena-Miles Wever Todd Prize for Poetry, a Literature Fellowship from the Alabama State Council on the Arts, the Lucille Clifton Poetry Prize, and the Lucille Clifton Legacy Award. She was a finalist for the Ruth Lily Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Fellowship in 2020. Her poems and essays appear in or are forthcoming at CNN, POETRY, The Oxford American, Origins Journal, The Quarry by Split This Rock, Obsidian, and many others. She teaches at the Alabama School of Fine Arts, she co-directs PEN Birmingham, and she is the founding director of the Magic City Poetry Festival.