Home Burial

Overview

"A lyricist at heart, McGriff is a masterful maker of metaphor."—Third Coast

"There is majestic beauty in these descriptions, and it is clear that McGriff honors this place as a place—not as mere setting, but as a distinct element of his verse."—Gently Read Literature

Michael McGriff's second full-length collection explores interior landscapes and illustrates life in a rural community in the Pacific Northwest. Whether tender or hard-hitting, McGriff juxtaposes natural images of ...

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Overview

"A lyricist at heart, McGriff is a masterful maker of metaphor."—Third Coast

"There is majestic beauty in these descriptions, and it is clear that McGriff honors this place as a place—not as mere setting, but as a distinct element of his verse."—Gently Read Literature

Michael McGriff's second full-length collection explores interior landscapes and illustrates life in a rural community in the Pacific Northwest. Whether tender or hard-hitting, McGriff juxtaposes natural images of deep forests, creeks, coyotes, and crows against the harsher oil-grease realities of blue-collar life, creating poems that read like folk tales about the people working in grain mills, forests, and factories.

"New Civilian"

The new law says you can abandon your child in an emergency room,
no questions asked. The young father carries the sleeping boy through the hospital doors.
Later, alone, parked at the boat basin,
he takes a knife from his pocket,
cuts an unfiltered cigarette in two,
lights the longer half in his mouth.
He was a medic in the war.
In his basement are five bronze eagles that once adorned the walls of a dictator's palace.

Michael McGriff attended the University of Oregon; the University of Texas at Austin, where he was a Michener Fellow in creative writing; and Stanford University, where he was a Stegner Fellow. He is the co-founding editor and publisher of Tavern Books and lives in Salt Lake City, Utah.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
McGriff’s second volume begins with a tale and a shock: “Kissing Hitler,” says the poem of the same name, was the author’s name for “siphoning gas,/ huffing shop rags.// And we kissed him everywhere,” over an adolescent “summer/ when people just went crazy.” The pages that follow delve further into rural hardscrabble misfortune and misadventure, in rough free verse with an American gothic affect: “Is your charity the green rot/ of a fence post?” McGriff asks. “Are you near me/ as I clean this ashtray/ with my sleeve?” With rough portrayals of “rifle shots and laughter,/ gravel roads crunching under pickups,” “the night inside a barn owl’s wing-hush,” and even a reminiscence of snake handling, McGriff (Dismantling the Hills) can evoke early Denis Johnson or early C.D. Wright, substituting his own Pacific Northwest for her mid-South. “The Light in November” falls on “the Lucky Logger Diner” and “behind my father/ as he walks home from the cannery,” while other signs of rebirth and epiphany, luck and ease, recede before a territorial “thin white noise hissing/ at the back of everything.” Readers may disagree as to how much is new, in subject, in treatment, and in sound, but McGriff’s vivid grit remains hard to gainsay. (Mar.)
Library Journal
The poems in this new collection from McGriff (Dismantling the Hills) can be classified into two groups—long lyrical poems and character sketches. The latter offer brief glimpses of lives but fail to lend greater meaning, as in "New Civilian," where an intriguing start—"The new law/ says you can abandon your child/ in an emergency room"—gives way simply to a list of the father's attributes: "He was a medic in the war./ In his basement are five bronze eagles." "Crows," a similar poem, also begins promisingly—"Nine varieties of crows/ whoop and gnash/ in my bloodstream"—but ultimately doesn't surface from below a veneer of disembodied images. The longer poems, because they have room to breathe and settle in, get closer to meaning, as in poignant lines like these: "I've been trying to get rid/ of that part of myself/ that I most despise / but need most to survive." VERDICT Contemporary readers of poetry may be curious about what McGriff is doing next, but in the end, most of these poems remain in a strange middle ground between reality and metaphor where the two styles clash and meaning stays buried.—Stephen Morrow, Ohio Univ., Chillicothe
Jeff Gordinier
One of the first things to strike you about Michael McGriff's work is that it's populated: his poems have people in them…Again and again these characters sink to what seems like a spiritual bottom. In the hands of a less capable poet, their fates would feel almost too grim to bear, but McGriff chronicles their dissolution—and the dissolution of the landscape they come from—with language that manages to be simultaneously spare, cinematic and tactile. It's that language that keeps you reading along, transfixed…McGriff hits more often than he misses, and when he hits, his lines can be as immediate and indelible as those from anyone currently in the business of writing sentences and stanzas.
—The New York Times Book Review
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781556593840
  • Publisher: Copper Canyon Press
  • Publication date: 5/29/2012
  • Pages: 96
  • Sales rank: 1,014,432
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Michael McGriff: Michael McGriff is the author of Dismantling the Hills, which won the Agnes Lynch Starrett Prize in 2007. He has been a Michener Fellow, and received a Ruth Lilly Fellowship, a Lannan Literary Fellowship, and a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

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