The Dirt Riddles


Poems by Michael Walsh
978-1-55728-925-4 (paper)
March 2010


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Winner of the $5,000 Miller Williams Arkansas Poetry Prize

This powerful first collection and winner of the inaugural $5,000 Miller Williams Arkansas Poetry Prize is literally rooted in the earth and in the world of animal husbandry. You can taste these poems about life on a family dairy farm in your mouth. In these lyrical poems we meet a closeted young man, his parents, their herd, and the other flora, fauna, and objects that populate his surreal garden.

Miller Williams and Michael Walsh

Michael Walsh is the author of a chapbook, Adam Walking the Garden. He is a recipient of a Minnesota State Arts Board Fellowship and a residency at the Anderson Center for Interdisciplinary Studies. A graduate of Knox College and the University of Minnesota (MFA), he works as a course coordinator in the English Department at the University of Minnesota and lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota. This is his first book.

“What a way to initiate the Miller Williams Arkansas Poetry Prize, a series honoring one of our best American poets, by introducing an important new talent, Michael Walsh, a poet who concentrates on meaningful particulars and who doesn’t try to dazzle us with poetic footwork. These are poems about work and farm life, the minutes and days and years, the harsh numbers mounting—about strong, feeling people as they sense their way of life slipping away, even as they struggle to maintain themselves and find their own identity. Walsh has a fine eye, authority with our precious words, and a deft hand with the music of our language.”
—Paul Zimmer, author of Crossing to Sunlight Revisited: New and Selected Poems

“Walsh’s poems in this beautiful book present us with particularized erotics of nature, in which the speaker feels an electricity running through all living things. The poems celebrate that force in a hushed, almost breathless voice that nevertheless is as tough as the objects that it locates and names. Who remembers nature without romantic distortion? Well, Walsh does, on this farm, with these people and animals, and their work, and their loves, in abundance.”
—Charles Baxter, author of The Feast of Love

“Walsh has trained his keen eye on the hardscrabble family farm of the Midwest to give us a powerful American elegy. . . . These fierce lyrics burn away the fat of nostalgia and evoke a lost way of life that was beloved but also bruising. The poems form an enthralling plot, moving deftly from a boyhood on the farm to the urban life of adulthood with its city gardens, love, passion, and memory. The result is a book that establishes both a world and a voice. A magnificent debut.”
—Patricia Hampl, author of The Florist’s Daughter