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Reckonings: Poems by Ryan Walsh

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Although these thought-provoking poems reflect upon many larger reckonings, the core of this poetry book comes from the author’s experiences growing up in Harrison County, West Virginia, in the shadow of a zinc smelting plant that was forced to settle for the environmental devastation it caused. Walsh’s grandfather worked there for 28 years before it ceased operations in 1971. When it was discovered that remediation of the site by DuPont failed to prevent pollution of the West Fork River, courts required DuPont to fund a 30-year medical monitoring program that involves the poet and his family until 2044. “Mr. Walsh’s perspective is visionary, haunted, distilled, and at times pleasantly strange. And this book is wisely peppered with human questions that, if they cannot be answered, must nevertheless be asked.” – Maurice Manning. “Ryan Walsh's Reckonings is a heartbreaking love song to his homeplace in the ‘company town’ of Spelter, West Virginia, and an unabashed lament for the lives he saw consumed there.” – Ross Gay. “The deft, moving lyrics of Reckonings attempt to account for the slow violence of Appalachia's industrialization – particularly its twin legacies of exploitative labor and toxic waste pollution – while also positioning us in meaningful relation to this violence, the ‘Risk published in the air’ by corrupt corporations. . . . Far from hopeless, these powerful poems testify to the persistence of ordinary hopes despite injustice, and celebrate ‘this dark remaining/joy we take into our brief bodies.’” – Patrick Phillips. “Ryan Walsh's, Reckonings is that rare book that finds the balance between rhetorical elegance and unflinching dedication to unearthing the minor and major devastations we face every day. In this book the glow of the pastoral is used to reveal the brutality the earth faces at our hands. This is a book about want and hunger and a hope that perhaps there can be something like healing. . . . It's elegant and heartbreaking and makes me want to go on.” – Brian Teare. “In language rich and sinewy, with a terse energy and an evocative music, Ryan Walsh establishes his mastery as a poet of place. . . . [H]e embraces a love of the elemental, of earth and weather and landscape, of rural people and working-class life. Always accessible, bristling with sensual clarity, his poems nevertheless retain a sense of mystery and enigma that teases the reader into thought.” – Gabrielle Calvocoressi. Ryan Walsh earned a B.A. from Warren Wilson College and an M.F.A. from the University of Wisconsin.  He has taught creative writing for several years and is the author of two chapbooks. He lives in Pittsburgh.

Reno, Nevada: Baobab Press, 2019. 80 pages. Trade paperback.