Behold the animals, spooking at the water, haunting the field. Behold the field, writhing with blood, a gorgeous roiling horror. Behold the bloodhorse, mouth dripping with juice and psalms. Behold Ryan Downum’s I Wear My Face in the Field, a precise gore inside of which I feel as held as I do torn. As I read, I taste copper. I hold my breath. It’s a long walk into the tender-violent chaos of flesh and flora, a field of a poem that might just be endless in its unfolding. Wade in, right up to your waist – and trust me, keep going: “it’s like getting to the haunt of a thing.” Is this decomposition? Is this regeneration? Will the field ever be the same?
– JJ Rowan, author of a simple verb (Bloof Books)
I love how this frighteningly assured, sharp-aimed little book of animal poems gets at the weirdness of nature. Part minimalist narrative, part maximalist theater, the book takes place at the meeting point of Merwin and Aase Berg, Cormac McCarthy and Gerard Manley Hopkins. Ryan, I greet you at the beginning of a great career.
– Johannes Göransson, author of Poetry Against All: A Diary (Tarpaulin Sky Press) and co-founder of Action Books
“I scry apart hurt trails / and name my body. Clot spells / of bones,” Ryan Downum writes in a visceral lyricism akin to Hopkins yet wholly his own. This book-length poem invents a remarkable language that pulses, bleeds, and arrestingly reconfigures the relationships between doer and done, watcher and watched, “I” and body and animal. If you’ve ever lived in a body or mind, you need to read this.
– Alexandra Teague, author of Or What We’ll Call Desire (Persea Books)
A book whose field rides the repetition of animal behaviors; whose field expands to include the page itself, where words fornicate and reconfigure the terrain. “The animals watch,” and one cannot stop watching with them.
– Alina Stefanescu, author of Dor, Winner of the 2021 Wandering Aengus Book Award