Pages: 80 Size: 6x9
Ragged Anthem displays the same inimitable voice and unflinching gaze that made Chris Dombrowski a Poetry Foundation bestseller and silver medal winner of Foreword Reviews’ Book of the Year Award in poetry. His work has been celebrated by renowned writers such as Jim Harrison and Alicia Ostriker, who have called his books (respectively) "extraordinarily powerful and graceful" and "one of the most beautiful books of poetry I’ve read in years."
As in Dombrowski’s previous books, in Ragged Anthem the natural world is as alive and as fully realized as language allows. His comfort with the naming of the world, combined with a life lived intimately with the other species that populate the landscape of home, suggest an authenticity that few can claim. Ragged Anthem is a demonstration in continued poetic growth and expanded terrain. Written from the speaker’s midlife, the poems delve into the transformation of family, childhood tragedies, and politics. Dombrowski lifts the veil on the imbecilic bureaucracies—those on Capitol Hill and in the faculty meetings occurring in our own conference rooms—that often help to whittle our fates. The book contains well-placed and evocative allusions to such figures as American painter Mark Rothko and Saint Francis of Assisi, as well as the periodic highlighting of language from contemporary song lyrics. These "borrowings" set forth a conversation between the poet and other artists that evoke the original source while transforming it into something new, proving that words, although artifice, live within our bodies, changing our relationship to place.
Ragged Anthem makes a powerful and important contribution to contemporary poetry. Fans of Dombrowski’s past works and newcomers alike will bask in the poet’s firm yet relaxed approach to the shaping of language.
‘I hoped for some last gesture beyond a handshake,’ writes Chris Dombrowski in Ragged Anthem, a soulful book of longing that is as comic as it is reflective. These poems sing of humankind in need of something it can only seem to get from the natural world, and of how we won’t get it until we begin to understand ourselves as natural as any tree or river. Or as Dombrowski himself says, ‘Again / I took daybreak for granted, easy / as mistaking pinecone for wasp nest, / wasp nest for shed antler, antler / for branch.’ Here, these so-called mistakes make for discovery that approaches the magic of revelation.
– Jericho Brown, author of The Tradition
Reading Ragged Anthem is like staring at the sun and then looking away. Whatever is seen next is informed and haunted by that light. Dombrowski’s poems are that clear, that powerful. This book will change you.
– Kevin Goodan, author of Anaphora
‘It wearies one, the visionary mode,’ Chris Dombrowski writes in his remarkably unweary new book of poems, Ragged Anthem. The anthem is ragged, to be sure, with the disillusion and tenderness that comes with age and with a closely attended wonder—at a son’s words, a daughter’s drawings, brook trout, swallow nest, the sound of the word swale. Dombrowski reminds us with the clarity of a mountain stream why poems matter.
– Melissa Kwasny, author of Pictograph and Reading Novalis in Montana
Chris Dombrowski has proven himself to be among the best poets of his generation. As one of those readers who admired and enjoyed his first two books — better put, who has gone to the poems for spiritual sustenance, for wisdom, and for the magic of being transported to the landscapes where the poet makes his life—I’m happy to report that Ragged Anthem continues to sing those essential songs in beautiful and unexpected ways.
– Todd Davis, author of Native Species and Winterkill
Chris Dombrowski’s Ragged Anthem comes at us from the woods and the backyards of Main Street, somewhat in the tradition of Richard Hugo or B. H. Fairchild—even a more surreal version of W. C. Williams—a definite flowering in the American grain.
– Dorianne Laux, author of Only as the Day Is Long: New and Selected Poems
Here, Dombrowski quotes Roethke, another Michigan treasure: ‘In a dark time, the eye begins to see,’ and indeed these poems see the turmoil and resilient beauty of contemporary America, from ‘rivers strewn with moonlight and discarded / shopping carts’ to ‘boulder-curled cataracts / pocked by sewers.’ Even weeping, here, is the beginning of the ragged anthem we desperately need.
– Diane Seuss, author of Still Life with Two Dead Peacocks and a Girl and Four-Legged Girl
There are few poets whose voices resonate with such confidence that I’d follow them from a fabricated lunar calendar to a departmental meeting to a text message—but in these gorgeous, spine-ful poems, full of the ‘shrapnel of the miraculous,’ I couldn’t help folding over the corner on every page until the collection became as dog-eared as a pointer on a duck hunt. ‘I was a creature once,’ Dombrowski says, and in his poems we are allowed to return to the creatures we all once were: vital and deeply rooted in a world that is happening not on a screen or around a board room table but here and now and together. While his poems evince great skill, they are not made of artifice. Dombrowski finds the heart in the hurt thing, the burnt thing, the thing with the broken wing, the thing that doesn’t know it wants to be loved until it is. And his speaker—the self-proclaimed ‘poet laureate of boot slush’—vows ‘to someday see / the world as the world, not a caption on my life.’ It makes sense to fear for our lives in the world we live in, surrounded by our own madness and the kinds of sadnesses that are passed down from one generation to the next. But Dombrowski begs us to love each terrifying moment. And in his poems, I do. This is a book to hold close.
– Keetje Kuipers, author of All Its Charms
The magnificent poems in Ragged Anthem showcase Chris Dombrowski’s numinous adoration of the beautiful and strange. Ragged Anthem is strung together from anthills and elk and geese—the text messages and decapitations that become our selves. From exquisitely reverential renderings of the natural world to the twinned experiences of love and loss, this is a superb collection, one to be savored.
– Alex Lemon, author of Another Last Day and Feverland: A Memoir in Shards
"Going Home," an epic and heart-breaking poem from the just-published book Ragged Anthem by Chris Dombrowski, as improvised with Jeffrey Foucault at Dombrowski’s kitchen table into the phone on a bright Montana morning before hunting together in the fall of ‘17.
Jeffrey Foucault on guitar, Chris Dombrowski reading, backyard magpie on backing vocals.