Extreme Directions

Alice Jones


April 2002



This sequence of poems, evolved from the poet’s observation of the daily practice of Tai Chi Sword, evoke the fluidity of martial art practice, the motion of Chinese brushstroke painting or calligraphy, as well as the shifting physical and metaphysical arena that is human relationship. Each poem title is one of the 54 Sword movements, translated from the Chinese by the poet’s husband, Wong Yoo-Chong. Tai Chi literally means the outer-most limits, great polarities. Alice Jones’s poems articulate the richly various synergies possible between word and phrase, line and space, observer and observed, rational and beyond-rational, in a language that is at once intimate and expansive.

A new constellation is the gesture of an eye. Extreme Directions is a beautiful sequence of such gestures–across air, across earth. Alice Jones is a poet to bring us to our senses, and there we find the shining task of Worlds.

Donald Revell

Based on the classical moves of Tai Chi sword, these poems have all their distilled grace, but cover much more distance, leaping from marine life to geometry to intimacy with ease.

Cole Swenson

A mutability is somehow made palpable on the page with delicate and intricate care, then vanquished altogether with an almost reckless wildness and speed as the poems make their own (our own) discoveries.

Gillian Conoley

These poems are, truly, a Tai Chi for the imagination.

David St. John

About the Author

Alice Jones’s books, The Knot, which won the Beatrice Hawley Award, and Isthmus, recipient of the Jane Kenyon Chapbook Award, are both published by Alice James Books. Anatomy was published by Bullnettle Press. She has been awarded The Robert H. Winner Award from the Poetry Society of America and fellowships by the Bread Loaf Writers Conference and the National Endowment for the Arts. She is co-editor of Apogee Press.

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The motion of the writer is so practiced that word and sign and motion and idea become one… her poems often cut two ways and divide the opposites, pointing to something beyond themselves.

Helen Ruggieri, Rain Taxi

Each Tai Chi movement is an opening into the poem; each movement also creates the poem as a sweeping gesture, an underlying eroticism of the present…

Christopher Arigo, Pleiades

A compact book easily read in one sitting, but also easily returned to like a daily practice, Alice Jones’ Extreme Directions takes as its form the positions of Tai Chi Sword, each explored in brief poems. Jones explains that she “wanted the poems to evoke the movements’ fluidity, like Chinese brush stroke paintings,” and this is exactly how they feel: sudden and graceful.

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Beginning form

     Wide globe
          round arms
               want latitude

            improbable regions
                                east’s sword dance

                   into me

we’re a mouth

                        kiss the diameter
                  make time     go long

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