“Turn my hungers. Feed, hungers, in the meadows of sounds,” wrote our crazed surrealist French poet, Arthur Rimbaud, over one hundred years ago. Talented, candid, intellectually nimble, neither crazed nor surreal, Rick Mulkey turns on his hungers, turns Rimbaud into something American, small town scrappy, transparent and musky: these memorable poems land on the tongue and in the brain and center on the stomach. Whisky, beans, peppered pork belly bacon, lemonade, unclean scrambled eggs, very cold sweet tea, onions, beets, tomatoes, wine, beer — the poems overflow with juice. These poems celebrate sex – “the salty taste of the body’s hidden flesh” and excrement – “there’s the kind beetles roll into balls across the savannah.” These Rabelaisian poems have a nose for the ground that smells “like dusty clocks.” More Roethke than Whitman, more Hogarth than Gainsborough, this book’s gritty lyric excretes an aroma that lingers. This book honors what many lost in the world’s worst pandemic: taste and smell. —Spencer Reece
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All These Hungers.
It’s easy to joke about a book titled Ravenous that includes poems titled “Hunger Ghazal,” “Belly,” “Desire,” and “Omnivorous.” But Rick Mulkey’s collection of over two decades of poetry has large appetites in the best and most serious of ways, with poems that embrace an 18th-century Persian village, the 19th-century drawing room of Fanny Mendelssohn, Orson Welles’s famous Mars invasion hoax, and good ol’ guitar and banjo plunkin’ on the porches of West Virginia. What makes these poems cohere, of course, is a consistent desire to get the words perfect, and a deep compassion for the rough corners of our human condition: for “the body’s betrayal” of its original promise, for “the two a.m. face of the waitress rising/over a steaming pot of boiling beans.” —Albert Goldbarth
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In Rick Mulkey’s deft circling of circumstance and subtle shifts in and out of light and shadow, the daily, the sacramental, and the imaginative beautifully merge. His is a world that appears, disappears, and reappears in new guises. Our own lives will be illuminated by these fine, perceptive poems.
The presence of a vanishing landscape is everywhere in this work, the Appalachian country that poet Rick Mulkey calls home. These poems make manifest the belief that a spiritual landscape exists within the physical one, and at times of intense poetic inquiry, as in such poems as “Bluefield Breakdown,” that landscape reveals itself in all its power and pathos.” —Kathryn Stripling Byer
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