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The Table of the Elements


Poetry by J. T. Whitehead


J.T. Whitehead’s   The Table of the Elements  gives us proof that poetry is found in all things, and we are engulfed in it. His poetic vision takes our arrogant assumption of the inanimate world, and turns it on its head. This collection of poems declares to the reader: you and I do not master the elements, the elements master us. In a time when it becomes clear that mankind has done nothing to deserve a planet so full of wonder and grace, these poems remind us that we are nothing but the stuff we, ourselves, take for granted and waste. Here, poetry documents the folly and mayhem of our physical journey. While we squander our lives, Whitehead reminds us that the solids, gases, molecules and atoms of the universe patiently await our unavoidable return.


-- Richard Vargas, author of   Guernica, revisited , and publisher/editor of   The Más Tequila Review 


J.T. Whitehead’s  The Table of the Elements  is alchemy, boldly discovering and rediscovering the natural world. These poems recast the periodic table of elements, and raw natural resources such as salt and oil through the poetic eye. Whitehead reminds us that nothing is ever as it appears, that mankind may be gifted at naming elements, and wielding natural resources, but their stories, their histories, and their mythologies, personal and universal, transmute us all.


-- Scott Whitaker (author of The Black Narrows )


J. T. Whitehead brings to this monumental collection all the gifts we would expect of any poet worth his sodium:   Music, Imagery, Form (traditional and free), Sensitivity, Passion, Humanity, The World, The Self.  What he adds to those . . . what is lacking in so much of the mediocre volumes heaped upon us today . . . is INTELLIGENCE!  A World Class Intelligence.  That which envelops experience, orders and reorders it, penetrates and invades it, not eschewing syllogistic reasoning or immersion in the knowledge and wisdom of the great geniuses of the past, and the application of this great inquiry to the particularities of his life and ours.   What poets of permanent interest have possessed intelligence of such dimensions?  Eliot springs to mind.  John Donne.  Yeats.  Blake.  Dante. Joyce (in his great poem, Finnegans Wake). Shakespeare. Rilke. Whitman.  Horace.  Pope.  Homer.  There are others, but you get the idea.  We are talking about Poets of DIMENSION.

Do not be scared off by this.  All those I have mentioned have ultimately demonstrated the greatest clarity of vision and expression.   J.T. brings to language the quintessential precision and clarity of the Legal Mind, enriched by the Poetic Imagination: a Bicameral Creativity.  Accept the challenge.  Prove yourself the equal of it.  Buy the Fucking Book!

--Gerald Locklin


The poems of J. T. Whitehead’s  The Table of the Elements  bring to mind such classics as Edgar Allan Poe’s “Sonnet—To Science,” Walt Whitman’s “When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer,” and Robert Frost’s “Birches.” Like Poe, Whitman, and Frost, Whitehead juxtaposes what scientific materialism tells us about the universe (including ourselves) with what emotional, imaginative consciousness feels and believes—or wants to believe. The book’s title poem concludes by asking, “What’s the chemical symbol for love?” There as so often elsewhere Whitehead suspends us between rationalistic marvel and elusive mystery, making the world seem all the more a wonder.

-- Robert West, author of Convalescent



Whether being lighthearted as a helium balloon or serious as a hydrogen bomb, J. T. Whitehead seeks what is true and elemental about our lives. The spirit of Kurt Vonnegut lives on in this poetic romp through the periodic table by the editor of So It Goes: The Literary Journal of the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library."

 --Julie Kane

"It's original, unselfconscious, deep, often very witty.  It's also sensuous and erudite.  If it isn't nice, I don't know what is. . . .There are poems in here that touch on things that have always been important to me, and some that jog my long, old memory in some ways I can't pin down yet. . . . I'm impressed and entertained."

 -- James Alexander Thom


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