Poetry Review: Overtime and the Dance by Michael D. Jones

I had the pleasure of meeting Michael D. Jones, a west Michigan poet, this weekend at the Loutit District Library‘s Local Authors Fair.  As we talked (him delightedly, and I rather nervously), I picked up his most recent collection, Overtime and the Dance, and found myself walking out with it feeling rather absorbed.

Michael published his first collection, The Patter of Bare Feet, in an anthology of Michigan writers in 1998; his second collection Unlikely Trees in 2014; and Overtime and the Dance in late 2016.  His poetry has received two Pushcart Prize nominations, one of which is in this collection (“Ambersong”).

From free-form to verse to deconstructed, Overtime contains a combination of styles that keep the reader moving from one poem to the other harmoniously.  The pace is comfortable, but interesting enough to keep you thinking about where the edge of the stage is when the scenes change.

Broken into three sections, the thread through them all is the concept of Overtime, Time’s patient (and I can easily imagine, older) twin, the passing of events and life that slips under and over and through Time.  Overtime inspires, dreams, coordinates, slips its fingers through your hair at just the right moment to make your head turn towards that little moment that could later become your turning point, and I’m enamored with it. Overtime encourages contemplation and spontaneity alike, and is captured here in words by drawing around its enigmatic edges what it is and is not.  In doing so, it has the brilliancy to be seen as almost anything, which leaves the reader able to interpret or empathize easily.

  • Overtime Poem that Stuck with Me: “Overtime v. Later”
    Naked honesty towards procrastination.  It probably hit me hard enough because this whole step into publicly writing is like my Overtime.  I was sick of saying Later.  I’m grasping the moments of in-between, the way the sun is wafting through clouds and glass to my kitchen table, those delirious rushing sensations of a scene aligned as it should be.  Truth, as hard as it may be to tell.

The other poems rise and fall easily in-between the Overtime commentary.  The first section holds all the sensation of traveling to a place you feel like you should know; an eager walk to discover what the buzz is about, at the new store opening in an old and familiar building.  The second feels so in the moment, the perfect languid moment where you feel like you’re standing exactly where you need to be to get the best view possible of the destination.  The third captures the minutiae of living in an appreciative manner, of daily humor and gratitude, with contemplation of wonder and loss.  It is the emotion of a man.

Being west Michigan raised, I can appreciate nods I recognize in Michael’s poetry to our beautiful lake shore. “Lakeshore Rafter Migration” is a particular delight for me, with the imagery of turkeys crossing dunes on their way to Lake Michigan being a contemplation I partook in many a time growing up, watching them run through our yard towards the sound of the waves.

The “Essay on Poetry” at the end of the book tickled my intellect as well.  Written thoughtfully, but with the familiar sense of having a parry among friends around the fireplace on what poetry is or is not, I found it a meaningful addition to the collection.

You can check out Michael’s website here, and take a sneak peek at Overtime and the Dance and Unlikely Trees, both available on Amazon.  Also of note on the website, A Conversation with Michael, a thoughtful look into the processes of the poet himself.

Michael’s Facebook page

(And come to think of it, my Facebook page, which I’m not sure I’ve shared yet!  Head over and give it a like!  I’m still working on what I want to put on there that differs from here, but I appreciate the support (and I’ve got a few ideas, so encourage me, please!))

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