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A Poetry for Ordinary Use

[By Jerry Ward]

We
are condemned to live with the seven deadly insanities of the 21st
century, but we can choose to find bright moments of sanity in the poetry of
Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks, and other writers who knew dross often
conceals gold.  If we are brave enough to
set aside our jaded posturing, we may actually find pleasure in the kind of
poetry James E. Cherry offers us.
Stephen
F. Austin University Press has recently announced (and I quote verbatim from
the announcement) ——
…the release of James E Cherry’s latest
collection of poetry, Loose Change.
With Loose Change, James E. Cherry
explores those things that make us human. These poems are visceral, honest and
possess a vulnerability that will allow you access into the world each day. In
this collection of verse, very little is exempt from examination. Family,
politics, race, art, aging and much more are placed under the poet’s microscopic
eye to be clearly defined. But these are more than mere analytical
explorations. Its [sic] Cherry’s ability to interpret those findings and how
they have impacted his life that moves this work beyond the personal into the
universal. He has managed to take the pedestrian and left us with a remarkable
second collection of poetry. From the discordant aspects of his life, a
melodious solo rises. You’ll continue to pat your feet long after the final
page is finished
.

The
writer for the press gets one thing wrong. Cherry has not dissolved his voice
in the so-called “universal.”  He has
smelted the universal to prove the dominance of the ordinary, the personal.
Noting
his indebtedness to Gwendolyn Brooks in an earlier poem “Annie Allen” (Honoring the Ancestors 8), Cherry
announced
This
journey of putting thoughts into words
that
I have disembarked upon has been illuminated
by
your smile like a beacon calling me
out
of the darkness of who I am
and
the worlds that encompass me.
After
examining the loose change in Cherry’s most recent collection, some of us may come
out of the darkness of who we have become and turn the change into a bank
account.  If you have never read Cherry’s
work, I recommend reading Honoring the
Ancestors
, his novel Shadow of Light,
and his short fiction in Still A Man and
Other Stories
. In the asylum that is our world, we are fortunate to have
writer generous enough to create life-oriented literature for ordinary people.