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Salvation Blues is Rodney Jones’ eighth book of poetry. Previous collections include Kingdom of the Instant: Poems (2004); Elegy for the Southern Drawl (1999); Things That Happen Once (1996); Apocalyptic Narrative (1993); Transparent Gestures (1989); The Unborn (1985); and The Story They Told Us of Light (1980). He was named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the winner of the 1989 National Book Critics Circle Award. His other honours include a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Peter I.B. Lavan Award from the Academy of American Poets, the Jean Stein Award from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, a Southeast Booksellers Association Award, and a Harper Lee Award. Rodney Jones is a professor of English at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale.

Salvation Blues

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
2007 Shortlist
United States

Judges’ Citation

His poems are angry, bawdy, funny, wise and deeply moving. They sing to remind us of our humanity and to heal the language of its long service as a mere tool.

There are not many poets who get as much of American life in their poems as Rodney Jones. His Salvation Blues, a book made up of one hundred poems taken from six previous collections published over the last twenty years, brings to mind Whitman. Jones asks in a poem, what happened to all the people the older poet cheered westward across the continent? They are all here in his poems, making ends meet, working as farmers, shipping clerks, waitresses, car mechanics, butchers, strippers and teachers, while trying their best to believe in the American dream and a religion whose preachers tend to be actors and salesmen whose pulpit is television. Jones is a marvelous story teller and a contemplative man with an interest in both character and the way the world works. ‘Most of us are compositions that begin in error,’ he says. He never forgets that. His poems are angry, bawdy, funny, wise and deeply moving. They sing to remind us of our humanity and to heal the language of its long service as a mere tool.