I.S. Jones’ Chapbook, Spells of My Name, Picked for Newfound’s Emerging Poets Series

The poems, out in November 2021, “navigate language, memory, sexuality, identity, longing, and the mind’s inner workings.”
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on whatsapp
Share on email
I.S. Jones by Nicholas Nichols.

I.S. Jones by Nicholas Nichols.

The American Nigerian poet I.S. Jones’ chapbook Spells of My Name has been selected by Newfound for its Emerging Poets Chapbook Series. The poems “navigate language, memory, sexuality, identity, longing, and the mind’s inner workings, in such a way that forms a summation of the heart’s histories.” Newfound is a US-based nonprofit publishing books that “explore how place shapes identity, imagination, and understanding.”

Jones first shared the news on social media.

This culmination of labor arrived in the world at the time it was meant to,” Jones told Open Country Mag. “I think a good book teaches its writer about themselves.”

Here is a synopsis of Spells of My Name:

Guided by an erasure sequence of interviews, we find a speaker whose body is fractured through a series of misspellings: “In every mouth, I’m a copy of a copy of an error. It is exhausting to live as mistranslation.” A speaker who returns to “open the body into a new language” is constantly searching, probing, hungry, and is unflinching in their exactness: “Why do any of us return / to that which has promised to slaughter us?”

This splintering of the self is neither borne out of confusion nor is it a subject of total indecision on its own, but the musings of one whose path has already been laid out, a path full of sharp bends, a corridor of tress, much like the fawn that bounds throughout the book.

The speaker is driven by an urgency to constantly self-question, to name the sexual violences enacted against the femme body, against the immigrant body, in a measure to be whole again.  

At the center of these moving parts, the speaker confronts their violent relationship with their father, reimagining themself as a black fawn moving through a forest as they are being chased by a faceless hunter.

Form and structure, which represents the body’s shifting landscape, governs much of this collection. With empathy, lyrical dexterity and some notes of humor, Spells Of My Name holds within its pages a voice that is firm and yet tender, akin to a lone voice in the wilderness.

These poems are confessional, just as they are urgent, timely, experimental and beautiful crafted, each effortless in its grace. A strong indicator of the long and luminous road ahead of this poet’s career.  

Also a music journalist, I. S. Jones freelances for Complex, Earmilk, and NBC News THINK. She is a Graduate Fellow with The Watering Hole and holds fellowships from Callaloo, BOAAT Writer’s Retreat, and Brooklyn Poets. She is a Book Editor with Indolent Books, Editor at 20.35 Africa: An Anthology of Contemporary Poetry, co-editor of The Young African Poets Anthology: The Fire That Is Dreamed Of (Agbowó, 2020), and served as the inaugural nonfiction guest editor for Lolwe. She hosts a month-long workshop every April called The Singing Bullet.

  Waterman by Echezonachukwu Nduka Review—A Sobering Stare at the World

Her works have appeared or are forthcoming in Guernica, Washington Square Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Hobart Pulp, The Rumpus, The Offing, Shade Literary Arts, Blood Orange Review, and Honey Literary. Her work was chosen by Khadijah Queen as a finalist for the 2020 Sublingua Prize for Poetry.

She is an MFA candidate in Poetry at UW–Madison as well as the Inaugural 2019­­–2020 Kemper K. Knapp University Fellowship recipient. She splits her time between Southern California and New York. 

“It was a goal of mine to have my chapbook accepted before I graduated, and I am immensely grateful to have been awarded the Kemper K. Knapp Fellowship in my first year at UW-Madison, which bought me invaluable time to dream and conceive of this chapbook,” Jones told Open Country Mag. “I’m grateful to my editor, Lev Keltner, and to Newfound for selecting this manuscript. I’m happy to, at last, put this little book down and move on to other things.” 

Pre-order for I.S. Jones’ Spells of My Name begins September 30. The chapbook will be published in November. 

Otosirieze Obi-Young
Otosirieze Obi-Young, a writer, culture journalist, curator, and media consultant, is the founder and editor of Open Country Mag. He was editor of Folio Nigeria, CNN’s exclusive media affiliate in Africa, and has led or joined editorial teams at a host of platforms and projects in African literature. He has written about the Nigerian culture scene, covering innovation in over 20 fields including art, music, tech, sports, cuisine, fashion, journalism, sculpture, beauty, health, and activism. In literature, his Profile subjects have included Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Teju Cole, Damon Galgut, and Tsitsi Dangarembga. His fiction has appeared in The Threepenny Review and Transition. He sat on the judging panel of The Morland Scholarship, a British grant for African writers, and currently chairs the panel of The Gerald Kraak Prize, a South African initiative for storytelling about gender, sexuality, and social justice. He has an MA in African Studies and a BA in English and History from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. He taught English at Godfrey Okoye University, Enugu. He is currently studying for an MFA at the Iowa Writers' Workshop. In 2019, he received the inaugural The Future Awards Africa Prize for Literature. In 2020, he was named among “The 100 Most Influential Young Nigerians” by Avance Media. Twitter & Instagram: @otosirieze. Website: otosirieze.com.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Top Stories
Open Country Mag Recommends

“An ambitious new magazine that is committed to African literature.”
– Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie


We respect your privacy and will never send you Spam or sell your email.