Author: Gary Boelhower
Release Date: May 16th 2017
Gary Boelhower’s third collection of poems explores the ways we are named and branded with multiple identities, a clay vessel molded and imprinted from the inside and the outside by those who know us or think they do, by wounds, worries, stones, and nicknames, by place and absence, by teachers and traitors. Boelhower dares to name the body’s blows and pleasures and how they are celebrated in solitude and connection. His language soars with ecstasy and burrows into hidden places in the soul. His lyrics tell how the world’s pain lodges in the cells and how the fragrance of summer stars opens an aperture to healing. Boelhower is winner of the Foley Prize from America and the Midwest Book Award for his second collection Marrow, Muscle, Flight.
(links will be updated on May 16th)
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WHAT THEY DIDN’T SAY
It was in early summer when the green
lush grass pulses with juice
a thousand things to do freed from school
skipping down the sidewalk marbles in my pockets
waving a butterfly net
some second grade song looping
through the sun-drenched morning.
It was in early afternoon in the most quiet
time of day when not a single leaf stirs
when they took me to the garage
up the pull down stairs
to the small dirty attic
where the air was hot
and full of cobwebs.
Pretending I was a prisoner
they told me I had to take off all my clothes
as they sat with their sticks
and their serious faces watching.
I had no choice with their sticks
which they used to examine me.
I remember the rough wood floor
against my knees
against my stomach
against my back.
I don’t remember breathing.
They didn’t say my name had changed
but I knew.
Naming Rites is such a generous collection it offers both blessings and confessions, dirt and bread, miracles and explosions, cruelty and mercy, great blue herons who resemble monks and blue jays clowning around, a lover's tender touch and the horrors of the nightly news. In second grade, Gary Boelhower admits, he won 'the glow-in-the-dark statue of Mary,' and his religious drive, now mature, is still alive in these poems. They aim for (and often achieve) not just a personal record but transubstantiation, transforming experience into wisdom, fear into freedom, language into song. Naming Rites is the autobiography of a soul, reaching out beyond the boundaries of the self. Bart Sutter, author of Cow Calls in Dalarna and Chester Creek Ravine: Haiku
Gary Boelhower's poems resist convention and confinement even as they speak deeply of and from history, family, and community. The persona names and narrates himself into being as he chronicles profound and tender encounters as well as 'tectonic shifts and betrayals.' Software engineers meditate, children go hungry, and faith is lost and reconfigured. 'Let me not forget to be what I have spoken,' Boelhower reminds himself and his readers. Naming Rites is an important and sustaining book for our times, with its 'cadence that calls us into the streets with voices/of protest and hope.' Julie Gard, author of Home Studies
IN THE SILENCE
footsteps crunch on the cold snow
heaven’s full of falling mercy
the big arms of the pine
spread in prayer shawled in white
the whole everyday machine muffled
if everyone could say their name
in such silence we might hear
each one might send their small swirl
of hopes and prayers
spiraling out like sufi robes
in the dervish dance
and we might all
hear each other’s hands rise up
and we would know the one world’s song
all our rituals are attempts at listening
all our songs a preparation
for emptiness when our words
have all fallen away because we know
we are all whirling together
wherever you are however you do it
notice how we are all whirling together
in the great round dance
on this tiny rock with fire in its soul
through the grand galaxies
spinning with mercy and wonder
Gary Boelhower’s poetry has been published in many anthologies and journals. His second collection of poems published in 2011, Marrow, Muscle, Flight won the Midwest Book Award. He was awarded the Foley Prize in poetry from America magazine in 2012 and a career development grant from the Arrowhead Regional Arts Council in 2010. His recent nonfiction books include Choose Wisely: Practical Insights from Spiritual Traditions, and Mountain 10: Climbing the Labyrinth Within,(co-authored with Joe Miguez and Tricia Pearce). His third collection of poems, Naming Rites, was published in April by Holy Cow! Press. Gary teaches courses in spirituality, ethics and leadership at The College of St. Scholastica where he is a professor in the Theology and Religious Studies Department.
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