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Department of English Language and Literature


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Michael Dowdy publishes “Urbilly,” a new book of poetry.

Michael Dowdy’s work wins the 2017 Main Street Rag Poetry Book Award.

Urbilly is an astounding debut because Michael Dowdy understands our peril. His ability to layer so much, sometimes with humor, in such a small space creates a mountainous effect. A father’s love for his young daughter fuels a rage over planetary violence. Traces of urban and rural, spit and shame, rapacious fracking and mountaintop removal, always the personal and political—these poems are living membranes that we can see worlds through. —Mauricio Kilwein Guevara

How do we re-integrate a past we ran from into the emotional ecology of our present? How do we do it, if what we’re after is growth, a good life for the little ones, and not bitter destruction? The voice of these poems guides us into the prima materia of remembered earth and youth to work the answers out of the ground, the sounds of 80s radio, the voices of parents and grandparents, and the chain sawing, hunting, mining, shopping, loving, fearing, swimming, tale-telling, singing, driving, playing that takes place ever in memory. Where economics, social class, and environment are disembodied issues in the headlines, here, they are sinews. This poetry distills the gifts of a psyche shaped by a rural Virginia past, and gives us a long drink of wisdom and beauty. —Maria Melendez Kelson, author of Flexible Bones and How Long She’ll Last in This World 

If “urbilly” as a word is somewhat obviously constructed, Urbilly as the book-length conjunction Dowdy has crafted is surprisingly nuanced. This is writing about place that moves beyond stereotypes such as city or country, writing that is rooted but never staid. Dowdy gives us “Mountain as verb,” and we’re lucky to have such lively language carrying us between clear observations, and making its colorful mash-ups. ~Rose McLarney