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Book > Arts



Published 11/15/2000

If you’ve ever stood near a subwoofer and experienced music as vibration, then you know art has the power to move matter. Local word artist Ron Allen’s Neon Jawbone Riot rocks poetry in a similar mode — from sacred spirit to primordial cell — challenging readers to dive below surface language and dance with their own undiscovered truth.

“This book is dedicated/... to people who resist definition/and thrive on sweet spaces/... to circles and spirals/outlaws of form/... sun slip of enamel hands/clutching god’s lips/the unapproached wall of space,” Allen writes in “Inside the Otherness.”

The author himself serves as medium for the great beyond, having dangled in the maw of drug addiction-schizophrenia and climbed out on a rope of words. For nearly two decades, he has served as Motown’s griot laureate, slicing the rind off mere poetics to suck out neon marrow at the core.

Detroit may be the launching pad for Allen’s astral projections, but Neon Jawbone Riot peeps through a pimp’s hot eye into the realm of metalanguage. “Narrative fascism” is clocked here in favor of primordial rhythm. Pieces such as “Aboriginal Angst in the Key of Flow” rise from the page like drum beating back against hand.

Below concrete and the overripe symbols of consumer culture, Allen traces growth to the root. The journey is not easy. But for those willing to stray from the literal path, he has crafted an atlas. Use it to navigate consumer culture’s pit, to untangle vines of self, to snap awake at the wheel and realize you’ve been moved.

E-mail Kari Jones at

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