In this poetry collection, the author of Ghost Country deeply examines violent masculinity, driven by a yearning for more compassionate ways of being.
McCarthy’s flyover country is populated by a family strangled by silence: a father drunk and mute in the passenger seat, a mother sinking into bed like a dish at the bottom of a sink, and a boy whose friends play punch-for-punch for fun. He shows us a boy struggling to understand pain carried down through generations and how quickly abandonment becomes a silent kind of violence; “how we deny each other, daily, so many chances to care,” and how “we didn’t know how to talk about loss, / so we made each other lose.” Constant throughout is the brutality of the Midwestern landscape that, like the people who inhabit it, turns out to be beautiful in its vulnerability: sedge grass littered with plastic bags floating like ghosts, dilapidated houses with abandoned Fisher Price toys in the yard, and silos of dirt and rust under a sky that struggles to remember the ground below.
With arresting lyricism and humility, Scared Violent Like Horses attends to the insecurities that hide at the heart of what’s been turned harsh, offering a smoldering but redemptive and tender view of the lost, looked over, and forgotten.
Selected by Victoria Chang as winner of the Jake Adam York Prize
Praise for Scared Violent Like Horses
“McCarthy’s book of Midwestern threnodies begins in image and ends in solemnity . . . McCarthy’s poems are profluent stories?a joy to marvel at this skill, impressive considering the book’s bleak landscape.” —The Millions
“McCarthy has whittled out a sense of freedom from the heartache of the past, and the reader is left with a remarkable vision.” —Booklist
“In unshowy, plaintive, quietly delivered language that should not be mistaken for affectless?and that can be stabbed through with surprisingly piercing metaphor—McCarthy vivifies a place and hard way of life too little visited.” —Library Journal
“Ultimately, what the reader is left with is a stunning overlap of lost boy and lost landscape glimpsed through the lens of a gifted poet’s magical linguistic and storytelling abilities.” —Victoria Chang
“A book that grabs the reader with its insistent lyric beauty.” —Allison Joseph