Parneshia Jones begins her debut poetry collection, Vessel, with the important subject of her name. "Parneshia [par: knee: she a] n/ i. 1980--daughter of high school sweethearts," she explains in the poem "Definition," after first defining "Parnassus," the Greek mountain symbol of poetry. From there she makes clear the inextricable nature of poetry to her life.

Vessel is a book of family, history, storytelling, the South, romance, Chicago, music and tradition. Each entry opens like a delectable advent calendar of Jones's heritage; each a surprise, each a treat. There are warm memories she offers tenderly, like the moment her grandmother welcomes her in the middle of the night: "I slide into the pocket of the quilt,/ letting my grandmother's hands/ cradle me back to child" ("Dream Catcher"). There are sultry moments shared with a comely companion: "Our fingers, licked slow, tuck themselves/ between full bodies feasting on the night's heat." ("Two Lovers and a Pot of Collard Greens"). And there are somber elegies written in anguish: "Children become ancestors/ in the Georgia night" ("Georgia on My Mind").

Together, the moments Jones writes swell into a tremendous epic, of not just one life but the lives of each person touched by the first. Vessel is a satisfying, lyrical chorus of both black struggle and personal revelation, swirling with regional sights and sounds, and sizzling with the burn of whiskey. "You/ Rare/ Reserve," Jones writes for her father in "O.W. Starling"--"Live to be savored." Savor these words. --Dave Wheeler, associate editor, Shelf Awareness

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