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 can't 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.
In these stunningly mosaic-worked poems, Gary L. McDowell pieces together the fractured quotidian bits of familial relationships and loss, place, and domestic ritual. In paratactic shards and glittering non sequiturs, this art of assembly is both recuperative and illusory, and like traditional Japanese ceramicists who aggrandized the fault-lines by gilding cracks and breaks in pots, the spaces between McDowell's rivetingly attentive lines in Weeping at a Stranger's Funeral allow in breath, light, river, and sky.
-Lee Ann Roripaugh
The way to tell a story is to circle the story, reporting flashbacks and definitions, interrupting with domestic news flashes and small factoids. Also, be mindful of the narrative that is the present tense of the story's telling. Whatever comes along, in other words. These assemblages, accumulations of disparate detail (images, quotes from numerous other texts), flare up in the mind as the TRUTH, since language best stumbles its way toward insight and self-revelation. "All lies have basic truths in common," writes McDowell in Weeping at a Stranger's Funeral, a book full of dead-on specifics, luminous miscomprehensions, and portentous sounding approximations. 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
Gary L. McDowell is the author of Weeping at a Stranger's Funeral and American Amen (Dream Horse Press) and co-editor of The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Prose Poetry (Rose Metal Press). He lives in Nashville, TN with his family where he is an assistant professor of English at Belmont University.