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"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."
— Amy Newman, author of fall and Camera Lyrica

"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.”
—David Baker, author of Changeable Thunder and Never-Ending Birds

"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."
— William Olsen, author of Avenue of Vanishing and Trouble Lights

"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 big-shouldered poems house both self-doubt and a bottomless well of kindness. American Amen wondrously pushes into the dark with “its heart in its fists.""
Alex Lemon, author of Happy: A Memoir and Fancy Beasts

Snag a copy of The Field Guide at Rose Metal Press!

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"Make room on the short shelf of essential books about the prose poem for this terrific Field Guide. Its innovative format—part anthology, part critical investigation—makes it an ideal starting point for newcomers, while its many insights will surely inspire even long-term readers and writers of this much-misunderstood form. Casual, diverse, and entertaining, it might just launch a new generation of American prose poets."
—Campbell McGrath, author of Shannon: a Poem of the Lewis and Clark Expedition

"It looks as if the prose poem ungirdles the latent surrealist, fabulist, Baudelairean flaneur and Joycean punster in many a writer of mainstream American verse.  Here’s a collection of testimonies to a fertile and potent modern form that’s still going strong in its third century.  Prose plus poetry?  As Rimbaud might say – in fact, did say once in a prose poem – “Drôle de ménage!”"
—Mark Jarman, author of Epistles

"If ever you find the prose poem wandering your neighborhood with its strange and beautiful hands stuffed sadly in its pockets, spellbound and feral, searching its body for the lines that keep it, go to it and give the fantastic mongrel The Field Guide so it can find its way back to itself – for here is a guide that honors its anatomy with the same bewilder and brilliance that designed its first breath.
—Sabrina Orah Mark, author of Tsim Tsum

Reviews of The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Prose Poetry

Publish Chicago
Time Out Chicago
Outside Writers Collective