Rodney Jones grew up on a farm in northern Alabama, in an area so rural that electricity wasn’t available until the 1950s. He started writing poems in high school, then began publishing them in literary magazines when he was in college. In 1972, Jones sold three poems to The Atlantic Monthly. His first book, Going Ahead Looking Back, was published in 1977.
Jones graduated from the University of Alabama in 1971 with a BA in English. In 1973, he earned an MFA from University of North Carolina at Greensboro. He was a public school teacher from 1974 to 1978, then was Writer-in-Residence at Virginia Intermont College, 1978 to 1984. He joined the English department at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale in 1984. In addition to his many literary awards, he also received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1985 and a fellowship from the National Endowment of the Arts in 1986.
Rodney Jones draws on the oral storytelling tradition of his childhood to create poems that are accessible to ordinary readers. His poems recreate and reflect the South of the past from the perspective of the present. He has said that his poems arise from curiosity and exploration.
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Photo by G. Jones; courtesy of Houghton Mifflin.
Last updated on May 21, 2009.