Margaret Ray is pulling back the curtains on our societal performance of culture, guiding an exposing light to the daily performance that is life in a woman’s body.
Selected by Stephanie Burt as the winner of the A. Poulin Jr. Poetry Prize, Margaret Ray’s Good Grief, the Ground interrogates the everyday violences nonchalantly inflicted unto women through personal, political, and national lenses. Moving between adolescence and adulthood, Ray alternates between dark humor and heart-wrenching honesty to explore grief, anxiety, queer longing, girlhood, escape from a bad marriage, and the dangers of lending language to a thing. With stunning wit and precision and attention, we see Ray show us what it is to be human: the mess of tenderness and darkness and animosity.
Out of the heavy Florida dusk, out of peach juice and late-night swimming pool break-ins and grocery store aisles comes these completely captivating poems. In the words of Stephanie Burt: “Come and see. Take care. Dive in.”
Yours is still absorbent, I can hear it,
fewer sources, maybe. Fewer contacts. You’re
shrinking. You’re still keenly aware of status, look,
it’s not as if we weren’t once that kid
befriending the new girls who transferred in—
not out of kindness, but from a gambler’s sense
that if their status turned out to be high,
we could hitch ourselves to them.
(How can I show you my ugliness without
meaning “love me, love me”?)
Praise for Good Grief, the Ground
“It’s hard to stay present in this world: to stay not only alive but alert—to the Florida thunder, to the waves and their corresponding particles, to the ‘lumbering monsters’ of misgovernment in the cereal aisles, to fear and desire and patriarchy’s crossed wires, and to all the ways in which you and I, dear reader, can learn to stand up for ourselves, or even fight back. It’s hard, but Margaret Ray’s first collection makes it happen. Show and tell, f—/marry/bury, ‘Cheez-its,’ ‘Sweet Fears’ and advice from her younger self recur as Ray shows us through he —and not only her—world in the American vernacular, the supple free verse, and the technical variety of this stunning, and scary, and honestly fun, collection. Come and see. Take care. Dive in.”
— Stephanie Burt, author of After Callimachus: Poems
“This is a book full of heat. No, it’s full of sadness. It’s rich with sensory pleasure. No, it struggles with absence, loss, diminishment. This is a good-humored, tender-hearted book. No, this book is full of edges. This is a book about change. This is a book about staying still. One of the great things about Ray’s lucid, supple narrative lyric poetry is the way it gets the many conflicting tones and emotions of life to co-exist and collaborate to make poems into stages on which all kinds of things can happen. ‘I want to pour/my life into a different container,/but it’s still river water,’ one poem announces. Good Grief, the Ground feels both familiar and quite surprising—and isn’t that what we are ultimately after, in poetry as in life?”
— Daisy Fried, author of The Year the City Emptied
Publication Date: 04/11/23