We had the good fortune of connecting with Lois P. Jones and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Lois P., is there a quote or affirmation that’s meaningful to you?
What Survives Who says that all must vanish?
Who knows if the flight of the bird you wound remains,
and perhaps the caresses of flowers survive us, in their ground.
It isn’t the gesture that lasts,
but it dresses you again in gold armor
—from breast to knees—
and as much as the battle was pure an Angel wears it after you.
(Trans. various) ORIGINAL FRENCH:
Qui te dit que tout disparaisse?
De l’oiseau que tu blesses,
Qui sait s’il ne reste le vol?
Et peut-être les fleurs des caresses Survivent à nous, de leur sol.
Ce n’est pas le geste qui dure,
Mais il nous revêt de l’armure D’or,
des flancs aux genoux,
Et tant la bataille fut pure,
Un ange la porte après nous.
I suppose I’m cheating a bit by quoting an entire poem but this is a work by Rainer Maria Rilke which I return to again and again as much for its shimmering enigma as the sense of metaphysical satisfaction it brings me. Does the physical action of good or harm remain? If you hurt a bird do you destroy also the flight or does this flight continue to exist elsewhere in some realm of continuum just beyond our reach? The ending suggests that if the deed was good it lives yet in another form, dressing the angel in gold. As someone who has walked alongside Rilke since I began writing poetry, I find this relatively unknown work a kind of virtual lamp post for the road.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
My friend J. Michael Walker calls himself a perennially emerging artist. I’d say that’s true of myself as well. I emerged late but immersed fully into the craft of poetry first through local workshops and then through weeklong retreats at the San Miguel Poetry Week in San Miguel de Allende for five years as well as retreats in Languedoc Roussillon France with Pascale Petit, a poet I’ve admired ever since I began writing in earnest. The years since 2005 have been steadily dedicated to craft with courses and regular workshopping through a local group of Pasadena poets who are accomplished writers all looking to improve their game. In recent years, The Poetry School in London has been a major source of learning and inspiration. Being the host of Poets Cafe since 2007 as well as the co-host of The Moonday Poetry Series and recently acting as a screener for the Kingsley-Tufts awards has kept me deep inside contemporary poetics. I’ve just offloaded about 300 books to make room for more! What has given me the greatest gratification are the interviews I’ve had the pleasure of offering during my 13 years as Poets Café’s radio host. There were exciting moments too like my conversations with Neil deGrasse Tyson, Julian Sands and Joy Harjo. One of my greatest joys is to sit (with) a guest and talk about their love of words and the inspiration and meaning behind their work.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I’d like to dedicate my shoutout to poet, editor and educator, Elena Karina Byrne. I’ve known of Elena’s enduring reputation in Los Angeles over the years as a poet and moderator for the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books and as the Literary Programs Director for The Ruskin Art Club but it was only after I interviewed her as host of KPFK’s Poets Cafe back in 2018 that I came to know her personally and to discover one of the most generous, warm, talented and insightful champions of poetry I’ve ever encountered. Her long history of service to poetry including her 12 years as Regional Director of the Poetry Society of America, her judging of the Kingsley Tufts Poetry Prize, and her own prolific award-winning writing has kept her within the inner origami folds of Los Angeles’s complex and dynamic literary world. She brings all of this to the table whether as a Beyond Baroque workshop instructor, a tutor at London’s Poetry School or through her care and support of my own work on an individual basis. I’d also like to write a shoutout to producer Marlena Bond, who spent the past nearly 17 years of her life producing and editing countless hours of her brainchild, Poets Cafe for KPFK listeners. If Martin Perlich wrote the Art of the Interview, Marlena could certainly pen her own opus on the sensitivity, aesthetic and technical knowledge it takes to present a great interview and to keep a beloved show afloat for so many years. As long as I’m focusing locally, I want to acknowledge Suzanne Lummis who is interviewed elsewhere on Shoutout for her tireless voice and generosity in the world of poetry and her personal encouragement and occasional mentorship over the years. Suzanne Lummis is a noir rock star. Her series on poetry.la, They Write by Night has everything you would want from such a sequence – classic noir film clips, anecdotes of Suzanne’s rich dialogue with this genre, stunning, sexy noir poems and of course her sharp wit and acting chops don’t hurt either! She’s an educator who has taught for over 25 years for the UCLA Extension Writers Program and in numerous public workshops throughout the city and in private workshops at her home. The latter has forever changed the way I examine the proverbial “line” and a number of the poems she shares in her classes are part of my “go to” references when I want to see how a particular type of poem speaks from a voice of mastery. We are lucky in Los Angeles to have such a tremendous trove of poets and dynamic women who are invested in the diversity of our city and it’s many tongued songs.
Instagram: Lois P. Jones (@loispjones)
All images credits are Lois P. Jones’ except for the Kyoto Journal issues photograph which falls to its publisher, Kyoto Journal. Kyoto Journal | Insights From Asia