A Review of Actual Miles

Actual Miles by Jim Warner
97 Pages, Paperback
Sundress Publications 2018

To try categorizing the writing of Jim Warner, or to label him solely as a poet would be a disservice to his abilities to cross genres. His latest book Actual Miles (Sundress Press) is found at intersections: the intersections of poetry and prose; the intersection of past and present, of realism and surrealism, and the place where we search for something lost while striving toward what still can be found.

The poems in this book serve as a documentation of a journey, a mix between coming of age realism, odes to past traditions, and surrealist renderings. They search for answers only to find more questions. These poems lead the reader like a roadmap and make the reader question: Where is home? What is home?

The poem “tigers and riffles” was particularly moving and a strong example of the author’s use of a poem to reveal history forgotten. Via Warner’s poetics, the reader is forced to confront the aftermath of colonialism. The following line was particularly striking.

Your second stain is a native tongue sewn
back into your mouth…

Warner has an uncanny ability to use sound in his poems. Notice the use of alliteration in these lines from “preparation.”

She would clean the rice three times before
it was cooked. Her heron hands swam
the silt and cold water….

If there is a poem in this collection that best embodies all of Warner’s skills as a poet look no further than “Best Worst Year: Episode 68 (Or, Waiting Room).” It deftly moves from surreal abstractions to ground itself in realism rooted in narrative. Mix this with strong word play and the power of his writing is exposed on the page. Lines like this are throughout:

…I used to think 4 a.m. was romantic. A dinner the
wake of the washed up drunks. The noir quality dead-end towns took
after last call. I used to know all the songs a sloppy rum-wrenched
heart offered. They were prayers when everyone joined in on the chorus…

This book is recommended for all who enjoy poetry, but also for those interested in hybrid forms, for the readers who don’t want to be confined by genre. And due to strong prose-like poems throughout even readers of fiction would find interest in this collection.

By T.C. Jones