On Shane Jones's A Cake Appeared
Scrambler Books, 75(ish) pages
When I'm left with an empty house for more than 24 hours, something strange happens. I clean. I pour myself a stiff drink. And suddenly - like magic - a cake appears in my oven, and I am alerted to its arrival by a sweetly obnoxious buzzing of the sinuses.
The same strange something happens to Shane Jones, I now know, only minus the alcoholic housewifery.
A Cake Appeared, which too mysteriously appeared in my oven, explores the nature and function of folktale in a postmodern world - that is to say one without the necessity of the origin. Where appearance is part and parcel of reality. Things happen - or don't happen - in brief episodes of pure creative bliss. And somehow, like magic, it works.
It works because Shane Jones says that it will. And Shane Jones is somehow channeling (through an oven, no doubt) the spirit of William Blake's Songs of Innocence and Experience, which makes each of his poems if not out and out terrifying, then certainly Scary dressed up as adorable good fun. The boyish double-spacing, with the aesthetic sophistication of a handwriting primer, smartly taunts the reader with the present possibility of absence -- just what is each poem not saying? -- and the poignant suggestion of flaw in the seemingly harmless bedtime stories that shape us.
There is, a la Blake, a noticeable shift in the pillowing narratives offered on the sly through the guise of rollicking poetry.
my pet dinosaur to the zoo once and introduced him to the gorillas. I
heard him whisper this is my pet human and when I turned from the
gorilla cages I saw all the people in the zoo were ash colored.
I promise to myself each year that I will set the trees on fire. I have
imagined what burning trees would like like through the blue stained
kitchen windows. I can see the leaves as ghosts burning and flying and
curling through the air. And each year I find myself in bed like all the rest
of you, small and sweater clad.
This split is walled off by the long-stand-alone-(available-from-Cannibal-Books)-poem The Nightmare Filled You With Scary, which is heart-wrenchingly sad and laughably clever all at once (another mystery). Before TNFYWC, the appearances are restricted to cakes:
Happy birthday, said the artist. Everyone forgot about the dead bird. The
fiddlers danced in front of the fireplace. A cake appeared.
Post TNFYWC, the appearances are less delicous:
I walked into the bedroom and a cage was on the bed. Not a small cage,
like a bird cage, but a big cage, like a gorilla cage. I yelled for you and you
came running into the bedroom holding a pint of blueberries. "Where did
you get that?" you said. I walked around the bed, inspecting the cage. "I
didn't get it," I said. "It just appeared."
Need I bring up the Blake allusions yet again?
All in all, A Cake Appeared is a tasty treat, doused with a bit of the uncanny and baked with love at 9000 degrees of stifling truth. Buy it, really. Or else Shane Jones and I will eat you with our Sunday tea.
PS: Please excuse the butchering of the line breaks and overall presentation of poem-selections here. (Blogger, you've foiled me again!) Be a dear and buy the book to see things as they were intended.