Aflame - Gary McDowell, Poetry Prize Winner, 2019
$17.00 - ISBN 978-1-945680-40-3 Library of Congress Control Number: 2020930088
“Gary McDowell writes “light can travel so fast/ but observation happens immediately” which is probably insight into his great gift as a poet: McDowell’s ability to see into the world of things and work with them or against them. Alfame takes this level of observation and puts it to work in both sinuous and staccato’d lines about the body and breath of his wife; his children; suburbia; a state park; aging; our political rights; and the city of Nashville where he lives. These poems move fluidly between narrative and fragmentation, between the body and the spirit’s flame. These are serious poems which seek to find, particularly in the long title poem, something about existence. This is poetry as ontology. Poetry as love letter. Something meandering between prayer and praise. It may sound corny but if not that ambitious, why even write? The stakes are always high in McDowell’s poems. Or how he tells us, “My daughter’s hand: how I know God is.” “
—Sean Thomas Dougherty, Judge 2019 White Pine Press Poetry Prize
"A love letter to the strange intoxicating calculus of time, chemistry, and desire, AFLAME finds us--through our soulful doubting, through "the mutiny / we undergo when aflame"--in a light I'm tempted to call faith. I feel this book and all its swervings in my bones, another reminder that Gary McDowell is the real deal."
—Matthew Guenette, author of Vasectomania
"Gary McDowell’s Aflame, with its clear eye and vibrant language, plumbs fatherhood, marriage, love, and grief in gorgeous, incisive meditations that refuse to shy away from the deepest human emotions writ large against the backdrop of the natural world. Swooning starlings, impenetrable cicadas, an “orange-throated / lizard climbing the shagbark”—resplendent flora and fauna undergird these deeply intimate and dazzling odes, prayers, treatises and incantations. “Be exhausted. There is no other way to be alive,” writes McDowell, underscoring the forthrightness of these poems—their willingness to dig in to and illuminate the hard and holy work of marriage and parenting, of desire and, ultimately, reconciliation."
Gary McDowell is the author of a collection of lyric essays, Caesura: Essays (Otis Books/Seismicity Editions, 2017) and five collections of poetry, including, most recently, Mysteries in a World that Thinks There Are None (Burnside Review Press, 2016) and Weeping at a Stranger’s Funeral (Dream Horse Press, 2014). He’s also the co-editor of The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Prose Poetry (Rose Metal Press, 2010). His poems and essays have appeared in journals such as American Poetry Review, The Southern Review, The Nation, and Gulf Coast. He lives in Nashville, TN with his wife and two kids where he’s an associate professor of English at Belmont University.