March 26, 2008

Jones to read his poetry at Library of Congress

by Andrea Hahn

Jones Rodney

CARBONDALE, Ill. — It's almost funny to hear a poet as well known as Rodney Jones admit to being "a little scared" about a poetry reading. But then, this will be his first reading at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.

Jones, distinguished scholar and professor of creative writing at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, reads at 6:45 p.m. in the Montpelier Room of the Library of Congress on Thursday, March 27, at the invitation of the national Poet Laureate Charles Simic. Jones reads with Ellen Bryant Voigt, whom Jones describes as a "splendid poet and a good friend." Ironically, his first reading for the Academy of American Poets in New York was with Voigt.

"This reading marks some kind of circle," Jones said.

The readings are about 30 minutes each, and will be recorded. The Montpelier Room has a capacity of 250 to 400 people, but, Jones said, he doesn't know how many people to expect at the reading.

Not that a large crowd would necessarily concern him. Last summer, he read in Toronto as a finalist for the Griffin Poetry Prize. There were about 900 people in that audience. Jones said it was "a hoot."

He also read last year to a large audience at the Kingsley and Kate Tufts Prizes. That time, he was preceded by Leonard Nimoy, perhaps best known as "Star Trek's" Mr. Spock, who performed several of Jones' poems.

"Of course, more typically, I read to smaller audiences, 80 to 120, and occasionally less," Jones said. "Five years ago in Jackson, Miss., I read to two – and it's entirely possible that one was in the wrong place."

Jones plans to read new works at the Library of Congress reading, he said. Some of them may be poems finished as recently as spring break.

"I'm a little scared, but know that it's a good thing, and I look forward to it," Jones said.