“I had not thought death had undone so many,” Dante said upon entering the underworld; six centuries later, Eliot quoted him in The Waste Land. In Blood Eagle, Adam Crittenden traces the reverberation of such awe through the underworld of our own time, where bodies are vivisected, beset by parasites, and torn asunder by personal apocalypse. At times both surreal and mundane, Crittenden’s dark lyrics navigate through strip clubs and apartment caves, dance parties and Disneyland, witnessing the detritus of late empire, a culture ready “for divination, but not ready / for the divination to be true.” In this powerful, often unsettling book, Crittenden seeks the truth through unflinching engagement with word, world, and mind. With Blood Eagle, he becomes our guide in a quest for what is really real."
In Blood Eagle, Adam Crittenden’s moving and complex collection, the narrator cries, “What I wouldn’t give for a little death,” which in the world of Crittenden’s fascinating poems means: what I wouldn’t give to feel, what I wouldn’t give to understand, what I wouldn’t give to be human, for how can we be human when “all we’ve ever done is pretend.” These poems read as if written “on the glass with bloody fingernails.” They are painful, sometimes frightening, and always interesting.
Adam Crittenden’s answer to 21st century vulnerability is intertextuality, remaking capital-P poetry after his literary forebears. The poems of BLOOD EAGLE embrace artifice in order to burst through it into a poetics of difficult intimacy. Of a Davy Crockett reenactor, the speaker supposes “once he’s upset, he gets more upset / with himself,” and his lover quickly corrects his assumption. Still, this “human piece / of glitter” takes comfort in abrupt reminders of his destiny to make mistakes, and remains seduced by the world’s wildness and resiliency.