Dave Jones’ interest in poetry began with an especially lovely soprano singing of the Irish lullaby “To Ra Loo Ra ” by his mother on a screen porch one plum summer evening 60 years ago in Evanston, Illinois. Or possibly the following morning when his father might have slung on a cowboy guitar and started singing “Down in the Valley,” almost certainly to be followed by one of his burningly earnest renditions of Christina Rossetti’s “Who Has Seen the Wind?”
Just as milk surely moves us on to harder stuff, Jones was soon convinced by Noyes’ Highwayman that “the moon is [indeed] a ghostly galleon” and the perfect way to spend a snowy suburban night was sitting fireside reciting the works of Robert Service (both “Dan McGrew” and “Sam McGee”) back and forth with a father whose middle name was Byron, who adored a darkly comedic, rhythmic musical line in his poems, never more plainly than in his standup, bedtime recitations of Vachel Lindsay’s wild-eyed study in delirium, “The Congo.”
It’s a wonder young Jones ever got any sleep at all, with all the lyrical “Boomlay-boomlay-boom” in this household, but his inner ear and heart picked up on an essential familial Welshness while in high school (grabbing some winks in study hall and library), where he began to court the muse of Dylan Thomas, beginning with “Fern Hill.”
In college at Lawrence University, learning to flirt with Thomas’ darker muses—while editing the campus lit magazines—he won various prizes in poetry and fiction, graduated summa cum laude in English Literature, and was awarded a most generous Thomas J. Watson Fellowship, which he used to travel to a small village in Wales to write poetry.
“Boomlay,” runs life’s river, “…BOOM!”
Forty-some years later, after a professional career in journalism with the Chicago Reader, Jones finally found his way back to poetry (back aboard his “ghostly galleon”) as Managing Editor with RHINO, a labor of love for nearly nine years now. He still wonders what’s been taking him so long.