Reckonings: Poems (Paperback)Ryan Walsh (author)
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There is a price for what may be considered progress. In his debut collection, centered around the cracked industrial-pastoral of Appalachia, Walsh asks who rung up the ecological tab and who will be implicated by this line of questioning. Above the banks of polluted rivers and decimated communities, a harvest of mountain and man; a bounty of pine and cellular tower has been reaped. There are those complicit in the sowing of such rewards, and through stunning syntax and mapping the bucolic's role in the creation of present and future, Walsh asks if the means can justify the ends. Who is accountable when noble intentions irreparably wound the hidden corners of the Earth? Among these poems is a life lived in the shadow of technological progress and urban advantage. These poems plot the broken places, add topography to the image reflected in the shattered screen of a smart phone, and unite humanity in a shared culpability while also celebrating the perseverance and persistent beauty of the natural world.
Publisher: Cameron & Company Inc
Number of pages: 80
Dimensions: 229 x 152 mm
There is a whole young lifetime represented in Ryan Walsh's first collection. "Reckonings" is as much about coming to terms with his West Virginia past as it is about the pastoral vision of those terms. Walsh's poems are distillations as well as romances of memory and the "settlement of accounts." The discipline and intelligence of the writing shines through everywhere as the poet places each rung of his formal ladder between the working earth and stardust. --Stanley Plumly, author of Old Heart
Reckonings is a beautiful elegy for our country, our landscape, our days. Terrified by what we have made, infuriated by our wrongheadedness, Ryan Walsh, nevertheless finds beauty in terror, beauty in the grief, beauty in our attempt to witness the crimes we commit daily against the world that surrounds us. How does he do it? Perhaps because lyricism, image-making, whisper, half-whisper, all possess the magnetic power of sustaining one, when all else fails. When America fights its own people, its own landscape, what is the poet to do? Ryan Walsh offers us the song of Reckonings, a song that refuses to let go. Beautiful, moving work.
--Ilya Kaminsky, author of Deaf Republic and Dancing In Odessa
Ryan Walsh's Reckonings makes plain that the hurt earth, which includes the people hurt by the earth's hurting, resides in our imaginations and bodies. But by naming that sorrow, by turning it over, he makes a garden. And with that garden he feeds us.
--Ross Gay, author of Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude, winner of the 2015 National Book Critics Circle Award and the 2016 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award.
Ryan Walsh's Reckonings is a heartbreaking love song to his homeplace in the "company town" of Spelter, West Virginia, and an unabashed lament for the lives he saw consumed there. A worthy descendant of James Wright and Philip Levine, Walsh's poems are peopled with zinc smelters and swing shifters, who "knew what it was to be lifted again, / to wrestle with the terrible angel, / and to have prevailed another day." Reckonings is a poignant, powerful debut, which bears witness to both the anguish and the towering endurance of post-industrial America.
--Patrick Phillips, author of Elegy for A Broken Machine
The deft, moving lyrics of Reckonings attempt to account for the slow violence of Appalachia's industrialization - particularly its twin legacies of exploitative labor and toxic waste pollution - while also positioning us in meaningful relation to this violence, the "Risk published in the air" by corrupt corporations. It's impossible work, making meaning out of the willful destruction of the working class and of the earth, but Ryan Walsh mounts a passionate defense of the too-often overlooked and devalued lives and landscapes of West Virginia. "Unincorporated? It was always corporate," Walsh asserts of the community where he grew up, and bears witness to a landscape and a people living beyond their own ruin. Far from hopeless, these powerful poems testify to the persistence of ordinary hopes despite injustice, and celebrate "this dark remaining/joy we take into our brief bodies."
-Brian Teare, author of Doomstead Days
I feel like I don't the word elegant very often when talking about books of poems because, often, that word can mean there's an essential difficulty and wreck that's missing. And I love difficulty and wreck. Ryan Walsh's, Reckonings is that rare book that finds the balance between rhetorical elegance and unflinching dedication to unearthing the minor and major devastations we face every day. In this book the glow of the pastoral is used to reveal the brutality the earth faces at our hands. This is a book about want and hunger and a hope that perhaps there can be something like healing. In the face of destruction asparagus, snap peas, and poems keep being planted. It's elegant and heartbreaking and makes me want to go on.
--Gabrielle Calvocoressi, author of The Last Time I Saw Amelia Earhart, Apocalyptic Swing, and Rocket Fantastic
"In language rich and sinewy, with a terse energy and an evocative music, Ryan Walsh establishes his mastery as a poet of place. Like Richard Hugo, James Wright, Philip Levine, or Seamus Heaney before him, he embraces a love of the elemental, of earth and weather and landscape, of rural people and working-class life. Always accessible, bristling with sensual clarity, his poems nevertheless retain a sense of mystery and enigma that teases the reader into thought. As a line from Walsh's wonderfully celebratory poem "In the Frame of Innings, Pendleton County, W.Va" suggests, "What else to do but tip my hat/ and marvel?" -Ronald Wallace, Felix Pollak Professor Emeritus, University of Wisconsin-Madison. Poetry Series Editor, University of Wisconsin Press. Author of LONG FOR THIS WORLD and FOR DEAR LIFE (University of Pittsburgh Press).