"Ragged Anthem" is a demonstration in continued poetic growth and expanded terrain. Written from the speaker’s midlife, the poems delve into the transformation of family, childhood tragedies, and politics. Dombrowski lifts the veil on the imbecilic bureaucracies—those on Capitol Hill and in the faculty meetings occurring in our own conference rooms—that often help to whittle our fates.
The following highlights are from a conversation with Chris Dombrowki about his collection of poems, "Ragged Anthem." To hear the full conversation, click the link above or subscribe to the podcast.
Once I heard use the nickname “Spiritual Redneck” to describe yourself. What’s the story behind the name and do you own it?
My son Luca owns it. To my knowledge, he absolutely came up with that phrase. We were talking about some pals of mine, among them Jeffrey Foucault, who listeners probably know from his wonderful music, and David Duncan as well as a couple of other pals: a guy named Jimmy Watts from Bellingham, WA who is an incredible bamboo rod-maker but also a kind of green beret of fire fighters in downtown Seattle, and another pal, Bret Simmons. We have this long email chain that Luca got ahold of one day and said, “You know what you guys are right? You’re spiritual rednecks.”
What is the anger this book is circling?
This book was composed over a pretty odd period of time. Some of the poems were composed way back in the 2007-09 era, and then others between 2011 and 2013, and then others later in the game, closer to the publication date. I feel that this book is trying to come to terms with some of what I would call, the latent, or understory, of anger that is present in our country right now. A lot of the poems, I thought were old. . . I had composed them in another time where I seemed to put a bead on or touched a pulse of this anger, and then suddenly, here we were again.
How are you meaning to include us, or repulse us, or inspire us, or arouse us, or punish us with this collection?
Oof. I think any poet would aspire to having his or her poems doing any one of the things you just mentioned. I don’t believe that poetry should always nurture us. It’s okay for poetry to disenchant us, if you will. If we’re over-enchanted we can miss what’s going on out there. . .
In whose tradition are you writing the domestic and what’s the conversation you’re having with yourself about fathering?
That notion of the paternal is very much at work in this book. I think “Earth Again,” for better or worse attempted to engage with the maternal, with the goddess, and this book tries to embrace the paternal. Which as this point in this century and “moment of mania,” to steal a phrase from Robert Penn Warren, is very much at the forefront. The domestic is a way of engaging a little bit more deeply with reality not using poetry as an escape from daily life but as a way deeper in.
About the Book:
As in Dombrowski’s previous books, in Ragged Anthem the natural world is as alive and as fully realized as language allows. His comfort with the naming of the world, combined with a life lived intimately with the other species that populate the landscape of home, suggest an authenticity that few can claim. Ragged Anthem is a demonstration in continued poetic growth and expanded terrain. Written from the speaker’s midlife, the poems delve into the transformation of family, childhood tragedies, and politics. Dombrowski lifts the veil on the imbecilic bureaucracies—those on Capitol Hill and in the faculty meetings occurring in our own conference rooms—that often help to whittle our fates. The book contains well-placed and evocative allusions to such figures as American painter Mark Rothko and Saint Francis of Assisi, as well as the periodic highlighting of language from contemporary song lyrics. These "borrowings" set forth a conversation between the poet and other artists that evoke the original source while transforming it into something new, proving that words, although artifice, live within our bodies, changing our relationship to place.
Ragged Anthem makes a powerful and important contribution to contemporary poetry. Fans of Dombrowski’s past works and newcomers alike will bask in the poet’s firm yet relaxed approach to the shaping of language. More information about the book can be found here.
About the Author:
Chris Dombrowski is the author of the memoir Body of Water: A Sage, a Seeker, and the World's Most Alluring Fish and the poetry collections Earth Again (Wayne State University Press, 2013) and By Cold Water (Wayne State University Press, 2009). His poems have appeared in numerous literary journals and anthologies, including Guernica, Gulf Coast, Poetry, Poetry Northwest, The Southern Review, and others.