where fathers worked overtime at the nearby Ford Glass plant and kids roamed the streets.
These poems of an urban life are joined by verses inspired by tales told
by McFadyen-Ketchum’s father, who took his children to explore the natural world surrounding the city and regaled them
with stories of his own childhood: a near drowning by tidal wave on the Aleutian Chain, a near copperhead strike in the black
willow swamps of Shreveport, sleeplessness after a science fiction radio-story.
In Ghost Gear, the “citied south” joins tales of the father, a longer ago childhood bleeding
into a more current one to create a mythology all its own.
Gear was a 2014 Finalist for the Miller Williams Prize, part of the University of Arkansas Press poetry series, edited
by Enid Shomer.
Watch several readings from Ghost Gear book tour
Read several reviews of Ghost Gear
NPR interview with McFadyen-Ketchum about Ghost Gear with Quiddity
Read several interviews with McFadyen-Ketchum about Ghost Gear
A profile of McFadyen-Ketchum and Ghost Gear
Click to read a selection of poems from Ghost Gear
What They're Saying about
Andrew McFadyen-Ketchum is not a poet of small
ambition. He reaches after big subjects in the high style, and --mirabile dictu-- he brings it off. There is something
of Walt Whitman in McFadyen-Ketchum. He is a rhapsodist spinning words into a musical web. Line by line the poems pulse
with verbal energy. His language is all meat and muscle. And yet, at the heart of the poems, one finds not simply a literary
performance but a tender alertness to the world. –Dana Gioia, author of Can Poetry Matter
In the tradition, narratives
march and lyrics fly. Ghost Gear is a book rich with narrative,
but its primary impulse is always toward flight, and so McFadyen-Ketchum joins the ranks of practitioners of the vertical
narrative: Elizabeth Bishop, Robert Penn Warren, and Rodney Jones to name a few. “I am a poet retelling a telling,”
he writes, and the point of retelling is always to up the ante, to make the story more potent, more rewarding, and more dangerous.
“It is as if we are subjects in a grand / experiment,” one of his poems declares, and the poet’s alembic
refines its world down to basic substances, essences, and ash. –T.R. Hummer, author of Ephemeron
In Ghost Gear,
Andrew McFadyen-Ketchum has written an affecting, and affective, book-length examination of a child’s coming of
age into a world in which childhood is not innocent, and beauty is never entirely free of violence. In these lush, maximalist
poems, McFadyen-Ketchum strips away the sentimental haze of childhood nostalgia to reveal a world in which shockingly
common acts of violence pierce our understanding of how America treats and nurtures its young. Like certain of Whitman’s
poems, Ghost Gear moves from the self-perceptions of the individual to the larger world that immerses it,
between moments of high lyricism and simple, concrete references to pop culture, revealing how a strange intimacy might occur
between groups of people and things that are “not supposed” to connect but in these poems, surprisingly, do. –Paisley Rekdal, author of Animal Eye