Finalist: 2014 Miller Williams Poetry Prize
Ghost Gear chronicles the poet’s coming of age in a working-class neighborhood in Nashville, 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.
“A provocative and rewarding collection that represents urban and natural relationships as the poet views them: circular, richly populated, often dangerous, and certainly worth attentive reading.”
“Ghost Gear is essentially a memoir, and taken as a set the poems have the compelling readability of good narrative. The abundance of action—much of it not pretty—offers readers an irresistible sense of voyeurism, while the ruminative, questioning quality of the telling encourages a more thoughtful response, as well. We may not see our own life experiences in McFadyen-Ketchum’s recollections of boyhood, but we do see our experience of memory in his poems.”
“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 Pity the Beautiful: Poems and Interrogations at Noon: Poems
“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.”