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We Were Once Here
Michael McFee

Carnegie Mellon
2017 • 88 pp. 5 1/2 x 8 1/2"
Poetry / Poetry - Family / Poetry - Death, Grief, Loss

$15.95 Paperback, 978-0-88748-620-3

New Poetry

In We Were Once Here, Michael McFee continues to write inventive appreciations of often-overlooked subjects, particularly the people and language of his native Appalachia. This new collection contains thoughtful and playful celebrations of such things as snoring, a wall telephone from the 1960s, yardsticks, the Sunday newspaper, and Fats Waller. It also extends the poet’s characteristic lyric keenness into longer work, including a twenty-one-part centerpiece elegy for his niece. The book concludes with, and is framed by, poems that explore the bittersweet enduring joys of “here.”

Click here for TABLE OF CONTENTS

Reviews / Endorsements

“Inconspicuousness flows throughout these poems, whose subjects form a sort of catalog of normalcy. McFee is masterful in teasing out wonders from such down-to-earth subjects—a crick in a neck transforms into a mountain stream, a loved one’s ashes become “concrete mix that’s ready to be stirred / with water into everlasting hardness.” And while We Were Once Here reminds us how “darkness lends its seasoning / to every cast iron skillet”—while even its title gently insists that we imagine a future in which we aren’t—what comes through most in these new poems is the beauty and worth of the days and places we share. This is a strong, moving collection from one of our most quietly remarkable poets.”—Philip Memmer

“Michael McFee’s voice gravitates toward place, its complications and cast iron realities. I mention cast iron, because his skillet ghazal for his grandmother is a memorable poem in this gathering. At the outset we are on familiar Appalachian ground, where the McFee family lineage can be traced and the poet moves confidently among the details of that history. He is preparing the reader for the passionate sequence that follows, detailing the death of his niece, for whom he cared in her last days. This is challenging territory for anyone, particularly a poet. How to render honestly, yet with all the poet's tools at hand, such an experience? McFee succeeds brilliantly. Having brought us through this ordeal, he concludes his collection with poems that push the metaphor of home and its boundaries even farther. We are journeying onward, exploring what “here” means, in all its mysteries and challenges.”—Kathryn Stripling Byer

From the Book:

Beggar's Lice

Sneaky mendicant weeds,
their little flat seedpods
would velcro themselves
to fur and socks and legs
as my and I romped
through grown-over fields,

bearing those hitchhikers
back home where I had to
unstick them one by one
until we were picked clean
of the wild green cooties
tenacious as hungry ticks,

begging (like us) the world
to take them anywhere else.

MICHAEL MCFEE, a native of Asheville, North Carolina, has taught poetry writing at UNC-Chapel Hill since 1990. He is the author or editor of fifteen books: of his nine poetry collections, the previous four—That Was Oasis, Shinemaster, Earthly, and Colander, were published by Carnegie Mellon.

Tue, 15 May 2018 13:49:35 -0500