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Going from a Cincinnati Waffle House to late nights in New York City, Sands writes in turns autobiographically and imaginatively, drawing on voices from his private world and the public sphere to create an urgent portrait of youth. While some poems are almost rebellious in their sheer, persistent joy, others linger in guilt, and the speaker poses tough questions about reconciling his past and present. “This isn’t about fear,” Sands writes in “Here’s the Real News,” “but it’s not not about fear.” Nostalgic and vivid, this collection of poems is written reverie. Selected by Richard Blanco, It’s Not Magic is the winner of the 2018 National Poetry Series

“Jon Sands’s ‘It’s Not Magic,’ selected by Richard Blanco (for the National Poetry Series), moves with a vital, rebellious spirit, looking back at various teenage moments of connection and debauch, its lines hold a tenderness for the past, a curiosity about what came before, and an arresting version of optimism of what might happen next. “I have a spell of this,” he writes, “it’s called Time-Machine. / That’s Latin for I-wish-this-had-gone-differently.”
– The Boston Globe

“In his introduction, poet Richard Blanco compares Sands to Whitman, Hughes, and Ginsberg, and Sands’ expansive elevation of the most ordinary of life moments bears this out…The voice in these poems is hilariously honest, inviting, and wise as the speaker refuses to gloss over his awkward past.”
– Booklist

“I shall resist hyperbole. I shall abstain (barely) (maybe) from the urge to bellow from the rafters. I will not babble ceaselessly about how this book will fervently rollick an often fickle poetic oeuvre, how it will soon be apparent (hallelujah) (finally) that one Jon Sands is the raconteur we’ve been waiting for. Savoring these poems, it’s hard to believe that Jon strides the same world we do–these inventive stanzas resurrect, reconstruct, rejigger and redefine, all with that enviable Sands signature. (There’s nothing like this.) (Wow.)”
– Patricia Smith, author of Incendiary Art

“Without a doubt, Sands stands as his own person, his own unflinching poet with the audacity, the chutzpah, the emotional honesty and verve of Whitman, Hughes, Ginsberg, and equally with the complex tenderness and regard for accessibility of James Wright, Philip Levine, Larry Levis, and Ada Limón…It’s Not Magic is, in fact, a magical experience, a book that dazzles with its linguistic sleight of hand, blurs the poetic line between illusion and reality, and made me disappear into another dimension of language where honesty is as beautiful as it is brutal.”
– Richard Blanco, author of How to Love a Country

“Opening with a question, Jon Sands invites us into a personal journey which is at once comic, deadly serious, beautifully meditative, and completely within the praxis of being human. Sands’s magic lies not in the sleight of hand, or the sudden disappearance of objects; it is more about walking backwards, the life-saving text, and a life that refuses to be lived in silence. IT’S NOT MAGIC is the truth at rapid speed and a bounty of innovation.”—
Willie Perdomo, author of The Crazy Bunch. 

Could a sentence be a life, or, at least, a version of one? Its beginnings and ends, whatever those mean? Could a sentence be an autonomous region, both independent and Of? Bear with me, please! I am thinking new things to read these poems, so rigorously trying to be free. Each sentence an effort, each effort a feat: breath and the end of breath, flight and fall. The poem, then, a series of ends and resuscitations. The shut door of a period but the pneumatic tube of a period. Funny, serious, songful, and strange. Everywhere here is the discipline of staying with but also of flying away, through an opening I could not see nor predict was there, which makes me, to read it, a succession of openings, too. I mean: this book is a series of astonishments. And the way it is made of Sands’ everything–dreams, once-secrets, goodbyes, golds, and embarrassments—makes me know that any life is also a book of poems. Difficult, impossible, gleaming. What brilliant and generous work this is.”
– Aracelis Girmay, author of The Black Maria

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