Andrew McFadyen-Ketchum’s first book of poetry, Ghost Gear, chronicles the poet’s coming of age in a working-class neighborhood in Nashville, Tennessee, a fractured place
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.
was a 2014 Finalist for the Miller Williams Prize, part of the University of Arkansas Press poetry series, edited by Enid
Click here to listen to McFadyen-Ketchum read from Ghost Gear
Click here to read a review of Ghost Gear in The Nashville Scene
Click here to read a review of Ghost Gear by Sandy Longhorn
What They're Saying about Ghost Gear...
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
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