Dream Horse Press
Gary L. McDowell's American Amen
Winner of the 2009 Orphic Prize
Click here listen to Gary McDowell with J.P. Dancing Bear on Kim McMillon's Writers' Sanctuary.
Praise for American Amen
Like a man who might go fishing as a diversion only to catch something extraordinary, maybe Gary L. McDowell didn't set out to write a big fat hymn to the human condition. But he did. The brilliant American Amen wrestles, body and spirit, with our belligerent world. It's a tensile poetic line McDowell casts, in the many senses of the word: this poetry throws, sheds, exhales, reckons, sows, shapes, bestows. Part gristle, part faith, American Amen is a beautiful book, reeling in "something baffling about adulthood" as it glints and flexes, alive, into the air."
"Gary L. McDowell's poems shimmer with masterful variety-long sinuous sequences and short intensifying lyrics; personal narratives and prayers to steel, wheat, and corn; family poems, of a father and of a son, yet poems capable of rich otherness: "I found my history in the tiny / bones of a hummingbird." For all this productive range, the center of McDowell's impressive first book, American Amen, is love, whose abiding act is acceptance. That's what the word amen means-whether in Jewish, Muslim, or Christian usage-and that's the deepest gift among the many gifts of these poems. As he writes himself, out of loss and gain, out of terror and awe, after all, "in case of fire, any god will do."
"In this age of new-didacticism a reader of poetry might sometimes wish to ask poetry to delight first, then worry about instructing. Gary L. McDowell's American Amen does just that, line by gravid line, one dazzling moment after another, in poems that are wholly true. A romance of place and person continually undergoes scrutiny and comes out from disillusionment to wonder, manifold mysteries, and joy-honest, stunned, self-forgetful glimpses of the illimitable. An unsettling yet steadfast vision obtains, of origin, longing, creation, and departure-all revealed as inevitable yet unpredictable forces of grace. This is an astonishing collection, a poetry of resoundingly human and natural marvels."
"American Amen is a moving and remarkably mature debut. In it one finds a Midwestern Robert Hass-impeccably tuned to birdsong, the whispering trees, the erotic and broken heartbeat of the every day. The collection wrestles the unbeatable ghosts of family and manhood; what kind of man am I, these poems ask, What does love mean? Hiking through a forest of familial apparitions the poems yearn to understand fathers and grandfathers. In gutting a fish they can find the sublime. Gary L. McDowell's bigshouldered poems house both self-doubt and a bottomless well of kindness. American Amen wondrously pushes into the dark with "its heart in its fists."
American Amen For more information about Dream Horse Press books, or for distribution, please contact the publisher.