Via both associative lyrics and disjunctive narratives, Aflame looks to the intersection of T/time and experience, sex and fatherhood, husbandry and the cosmos, and whether the experiences Aflame dictates are quotidian or ecstatic, these poems stabilize and arrest.
I. Desire and Keep Quiet / 7 Binary Code / 9 Sorrow from Far Away Is a Kind of Power / 10 Miranda Rights / 11 What If There Are Deer in the Afterlife? / 12 Upon a Concussion / 13 History Repeats Itself, As Seen from My Hotel Room Window / 15 Marriage, Ten Years In / 18 II. Aflame / 21 III. Long Hunter State Park, Late Winter / 39 Follow Me, Dear / 40 The Lazarus Reflex / 42 Sometimes Spilled Spices on a Countertop Look Like the Night Sky / 43 First Image of the Moon / 46 The Itch / 48 Reading Plath in Early April / 49 First Celestial Body / 50 Entrance to the Underworld / 53 IV. By Age 60 We Lose 200,000 Things / 57 Prayer Is Not Asking / 58 Palindrome / 60 Church / 61 Suburbia / 63 They All Chatter Mouthful / 64 Don’t Shoot the Messenger / 66 Winter in Nashville / 68 The Stars and Our Response / 70
“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
“Reading these poems, I am more than myself. I am etymology and egg, am the mysterious rabbit hole of fact, am as massive and tiny as a star. This book has the patience of a stone and the urgency of a library on fire. It is the prayer I wish could be written in cursive on God’s ear.” —Traci Brimhall on Mysteries in a World That Thinks There Are None (Burnside Review Press, 2016)
“Not one line in this collection of dispatches does less than delight and amaze. McDowell’s poems are wise and hilarious. I couldn’t stop reading them.” —David Dodd Lee on Weeping at a Stranger’s Funeral (Dream Horse Press, 2014)
“Weeping at a Stranger’s Funeral has done the impossible—made an odyssey of the mind that is just as compelling as the eponymous one, only McDowell never leaves home. His ships and sorceresses and capricious gods are domestic. In this amazing undertaking, the poet regards his life, addressing his imagination,…thrilling us with aphorisms that pierce and pervert. ‘Pigeons cant’ tell the difference between night and a vision of night,’ McDowell writes. The difference makes no difference, he suggests, and that’s what makes this book, which is both odyssey and tapestry, poetry at its best.” —Larissa Szporluk on Weeping at a Stranger’s Funeral (Dream Horse Press, 2014)