Men Briefly Explained

Men Briefly Explained explores all aspects of contemporary manhood, the humourous and not so humourous, where men are in relation to women and to society in general.

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Men Briefly Explained explores all aspects of contemporary manhood, the humourous and not so humourous, where men are in relation to women and to society in general.

Thought provoking, impertinent, irreverent, witty, startling, this collection will have you mesmerised from start to finish.

Tim Jones

Tim Jones is a poet and author of both science fiction and literary fiction who was awarded the New Zealand Society of Authors Janet Frame Memorial Award for Literature in 2010. He lives in Wellington, New Zealand. Among his recent books are fantasy novel Anarya's Secret (RedBrick, 2007), short story collection Transported (Vintage, 2008), and poetry anthology Voyagers: Science Fiction Poetry from New Zealand (Interactive Press, 2009), co-edited with Mark Pirie. Voyagers won the "Best Collected Work" category in the 2010 Sir Julius Vogel Awards.


Impertinent to Sailors

Curved over islands, the world
dragged me south in a talkative year

slipping Southampton
as the band played a distant farewell.

It was better than steerage,
that assisted passage: ten pound Poms

at sixpence the dozen, promenading
in sun frocks, gathering for quoits,

angling, in an understated way,
for a seat at the Captain’s table —

while I, a child, roamed decks, became
impertinent to sailors.

And the heat! My dear, there never were
such days — rum, romance,

the rudiments of ska. Panama beckoned,
locks pulsing like the birth canal.

We passed through, to be rocked
on the swells of the quiet ocean,

its long unshaded days
of trade winds, doldrums, Equator —

then a cold shore,
a bureaucratic harbour,

and the half of a world
it would take to say goodbye.

Now What?

A good question
here in the living room
at quarter to three.

All the others
are in bed.
They’re drawn in pairs

& yet again we’ve drawn the bye.

Have a coffee — Thanks.
What’s on the telly? Static.

A penny for your thoughts;
I’ve wrung the last
thin juices out of mine.

Have another orange, go on,
be a devil.

Stuff a chilli up your nose,
see a doctor, read a book,
save the world in fifteen minutes.
Put on your hat & coat & gloves

then take them off again.

Family Man

My double relishes his freedom to move
through narrative and time. You’ll find him

in the trunks of burned-out cars,
in the cat seat of history, riding pillion

as the motorcade fails to take the bend.
On the red carpet, just behind the stars,

he whispers poison in each lovely ear.
He’s the sine qua non, the ne plus ultra,

the hand chained to the plague ship’s tiller,
the indispensable figure of the fifth act.

But now he’s taken to hanging round the house,
not picking up, showing the boy amusing tricks

and games to play with string. I’m bored,
my double tells me, and:- how can you stand

to live this way? I look into his empty face.
You’re the one who chose to fall in love, I say.

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Customer Reviews

1-5 of 6 reviews

  • IP (Interactive Publications Pty Ltd)

    Just like Bush, Tim Jones is releasing his third collection of poems, Men Briefly Explained. Boat People (Headworx, 2002) had tough, emotional content. All Blacks’ Kitchen Gardens (Headworx, 2007) had some beautiful poems about love, sex and children. Jones came to New Zealand as a toddler from England and grew up in Gore. His dad was a fisheries inspector in Bluff. This latest collection finds Jones growing into a man. As a son, brother, friend, lover, husband and father these poems explore familiar sensations but combine a wry juxtaposition of good fortune with a bit of a bleak outlook. There are plenty of poems which are quietly devastating and really intimate. I liked his coming of age “happened to meet”:

    happened to meet
    fingers extending a welcome
    household of tired gods
    the table, drinks
    then morning.
    Birds, coffee, the paper
    affirmed you
    my hand on your hip
    my hand on your breast
    my hand on your heart.

    Jones produces a few prose poems like “As you know, Bob” and “Three Southern Prose Poems”.

    Do not be fooled by the funny-looking cover.

    These poems are strangely compelling and slightly unnerving. A boy feels his feet getting cold and dodges rain, about to attend Otago University. Jones explores relationships with teams of people. Men Briefly Explained is a topic which seems close to Jones’ heart. He blogs about it often. He has a keen eye. This slim book is his best yet.

    Jones extracts ache from irony easily. Some of these poems might be anchored in melancholy that some readers might find distracting, but there is prettiness to the sadness that stops you jumping out of the window. Men Briefly Explained is rich stuff.

    – Hamish Wyatt, Otago Daily Times

    July 17, 2023
  • IP (Interactive Publications Pty Ltd)

    Tim Jones’ new collection holds men up to the light with poems that are intimate and playful, smart and satirical. He focuses on the rituals and carapaces of men and the relevance of that gender in the future. Men Briefly Explained is an engaging and provocative read.

    – Mary McCallum, award-winning poet and novelist and curator of the Tuesday Poem website

    July 17, 2023
  • IP (Interactive Publications Pty Ltd)

    Tim Jones’s poetry is both worldly and other worldly. His lines form a clear and sharp insight into his own life and the lives of others. With a distinctive and fresh voice, his poems engage with the contemporary world, its environment, its human predicament, its politics, its illusions and its fantasies.

    – Mark Pirie, poet, critic, publisher and anthologist

    July 17, 2023
  • IP (Interactive Publications Pty Ltd)

    The poems begin in childhood, and end in old age, but this book isn’t just one man’s lyrical journey between the two. Other voices interject, other men are observed, and even the apparently autobiographical boyhood poems mingle a child’s watchfulness with a wry, adult understanding. On an assisted passage to New Zealand, for example, who is it who notes the passengers jostling for social position, ‘angling, in an understated way, / for a seat at the Captain’s table’? Surely not the boy who ‘roamed decks, became impertinent to sailors’, but perhaps the man that boy became.

    Tim Jones casts a satirical but not unkind eye over his fellow men, and presumably himself – men who grew up in the seventies, who lacked their fathers’ number-eight-wire sensibility but could name the current and ex-members of obscure rock bands. Masculinity defines and redefines itself in these poems, which at their weakest don’t develop beyond their premises: a nostalgic observer, for instance, of the rampant, geeky consumerism at a sci-fi convention (‘In my day, / there was less money to be parted from’), or ‘Baxter-Curnow Band Live at Hyde Park 1969’, where it’s all there in the title.

    The best poems abandon that kind of playfulness in favour of the bleak insight that comes with age – poems of men who haven’t lived the lives they wished for, who have settled for less, have made do: ‘Retired, he had his garden, / books, the heavy ticking // of the farewell clock.’ There’s a Larkinesque kind of resignation there, not least in the foreshadowing of death, but such men remain resilient, resourceful: the same poem ends with its subject searching ‘tide tables, shipping movements, // looking for a sailing time, / a vessel heading home.’ The final poems are, appropriately, elegies, both for individual men and for obsolete (yet still embraced) modes of masculinity. The men implied here are limited in their variety – heterosexual, middle-class, and white – but within its chosen scope this collection focuses sharply and sympathetically on these men, even if it doesn’t quite explain them.

    – Tim Upperton, Landfall

    July 17, 2023
  • IP (Interactive Publications Pty Ltd)

    Men Briefly Explained delivers a unique, fast-paced, highly readable, sustained reflection on contemporary masculinity. Jones’ poetry has an appealing personal, autobiographical quality that speaks to the heart as well as the head. Once I started to read I could not put it down.

    – Harvey Molloy, author of Moonshot, poet and teacher

    July 17, 2023
  • IP (Interactive Publications Pty Ltd)

    Tim Jones writes about how it feels to be a man, of male relationships – father, son, brother, friend, lover, husband – exploring territory that men traditionally don’t talk about, saying what is often unsaid, confronting stereotypes, and genetic imperatives. He writes with a blend of economy, humour and compassion that is rare in poetry, often finding the unexpected phrase – ‘a diminuendo of corridors’ – or an unusual, but exact, image – ‘mountains piled like thunderheads’ – to surprise and illuminate. This poetry is how New Women want their New Men to be – strong, sensitive and empathetic!

    – Kathleen Jones, author of Katherine Mansfield: The Story-Teller, is a distinguished English poet and biographer

    July 17, 2023

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