Completely Subjective: Saeed Jones’s “Body & Kentucky Bourbon”

In Best American Poetry 2015 book of poems written by Saeed Jones, “Body & Kentucky Bourbon” stuck out to me.  Jones published this in 2014 in Prelude to Bruise, a novel of poems he originally published in 2014.  Having won the Joyce Osterweil Award for Poetry in 2015 and being nominated for National Book Critics Circle Award shows his ability to play with words to grab the reader.  Jones grew up in Memphis and attended college at Western Kentucky University.  This gives him background living in the south and how the social atmosphere influences the lives of the southerners.  Jones sticks to two lines a stanza, emphasizing each line and really capture the importance of each meticulously selected word.  This 12 stanza, 24 line poem has a deep, concrete, and very real dilemma that I HAD to read.

This poem described a relationship Jones had with another man, and how alcohol turned him into someone he did not recognize.  In this poem, the subject has a tough relationship with his father, assumably.  Jones goes on to wonder, “What did I know about the backhand slap or a pine casket he threatened to put [subject] in.”  His father obviously abuses the subject which inevitably haunts and makes this man turn to alcohol to solve the issues.  Due to this need for relieving stress, Jones was affected.  This man brought alcohol into Jones life, “teaching [Jones] to bear the back-throat burn of bourbon.”  Jones then turns to alcohol, “I wince at the jokes: // white trash, farmer’s tan, good ole boy.//  And now, alone, I see your face // at the bottom of my shot glass // before my own comes through”. It can be interpreted that Jones is now drinking heavier, needing more, and seeing his own face at the bottom of the glasses.  This all is the snowball effect of the subject’s father mistreating him and the harm it causes people he would not have thought.

Personally, I do not have a connection with the context and content in this poem; however, I did recently watch a Netflix series that deals with alcoholism and how it impacts the family.  This show Shameless walks you through the days in the lives of a poor, discombobulated family with an alcoholic father. This father rarely spends nights in his home (usually passed out drunk in the street) and treats his family with disrespect.  The family kicks him out, and yet he still returns to steal groceries and get physical with his kids through pushing, punching, and hitting.  Jones’ poem encouraged this connection because this show illustrates the effect a father has on his family and how the bad decisions he makes inevitably translates to the chaos in his family.

Alcohol can have an immense impact on the lives of so many through first hand accounts, and the snowball effect.  This leads to a bigger picture, the decisions made by people you admire and look up to will impacts your life.  Being and adult figure means responsibility, now I do not know this through experience, yet common sense.  You will have someone looking up at you and following in your footsteps.  Jones is trying to get across the futuristic events that may occur is and adult figure acts the way this father acted.

This poem does not create a sense of abstract imagery that novice poetry readers think have to be in each version of poetry.  This poem does not take and hour to dissect, or require leaping assumptions based on one line.  This poem does not talk about the beauty of nature; yet this piece of art discusses real problems, the harsh facts of some realities.  This is what made me want to read this poem, it was not the stereotypical poem that no one understood. An infrequent poetry reader like myself are well suited to this type of writing, Jones was clear, straightforward, and eye opening.

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