When Jones writes (in “The Work of Poets”) “Willie Cooper, what are you doing here, this early in your death?” he’s written a perfectly intelligible English sentence and described a perfectly intelligible human sentiment; yet he has also, at the same time, echoed some of the most affecting lines in all of Rilke, from that poet’s “Requiem fur eine Freundlin.” I won’t quote the Rilke, but I will say that, as with all really effective allusions, the predecessor text becomes our algebra, our way out of mere esteem. You feel esteem everywhere in Jones—for phrases (the engine of an old truck hung “from a rafter like a ham”), for cadences (“The hackberry in the sand field will be there long objectifying”), for turns of thought:
My rage began at forty. The unstirred person, the third-
void, the you of accusations and reprisals, visited me.
Many nights we sang together; you don’t even exist.
—From A Defense of Poetry
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