“‘Because to name / a thing can be a way to claim it,’ Andrew Collard writes in his stunning Sprawl, a poetic geography of the nation’s heartland placed in a metropolitan Detroit that the poet presents as Autotopia, in the age of the Anthropocene that Detroit so mightily helped to create. Powerfully and precisely attentive, beautifully crafted to encompass the imaginative breadth of his witness and vision, Collard’s poems provide us with indispensable ‘field reports from the interior’ with deeply articulate, heartfelt fury.”
Lawrence Joseph, author of A Certain Clarity: Selected Poems
“Andrew Collard’s Sprawl refuses to shy away from the darkness yet is unafraid to acknowledge the strange beauties which whisper from the depths of fissures and the distances beyond peripheries. Collard captures complexities of contemporary life as the verse maintains its dichotomies, does not water down hardships nor loss. We explore a desperate sort of sadness, such as ‘what it means that I am from here // but can’t afford a home here.’ Yet the work rejects didacticism, instead painting palpable landscapes, places in which we can immerse ourselves for contemplation. These poems zoom into and out from intimate moments, showcasing nuances of public and private topographies. This collection is a superb demonstration of the role of the modern writer as witness to their times.”
Heather Lang-Cassera, author of Gathering Broken Light, winner of the NYC Big Book Award in Poetry, Social/Political
“I admired the poet’s deeply felt intelligence alert to ‘the way the pieces move.’ The manuscript was an experience that gripped me from the beginning.”
Jennifer Kwon Dobbs, finals judge
These lyrical poems about growing up and becoming a parent in Detroit reflect deeply felt connections to places and experiences that inevitably fall victim to irrevocable change.
Sprawl is a reconstruction of the constantly shifting landscape of metropolitan Detroit, which extends over six counties and is home to over four million people, from the perspective of a single parent raising a young child amid financial precarity. Part memoir, part invention, the book is Andrew Collard’s attempt to reconcile the tenderness and sense of purpose found in the parent-child relationship with ongoing societal crises in the empire of the automobile. Here, a mansion may contrast with a burned-out home just up the street. How does one construct a sense of place in such a landscape, where once-familiar neighborhoods turn to strip malls or empty lots and the relationships that root us dissolve? Sprawl suggests that there is solace in recognizing that when we ask this question, we are never alone in asking.
Within the larger geographical space of the metropolis are the in-between places of personal significance: the gas stations, burger joints, malls, and parking lots where many of the defining moments of ordinary lives occur. These poems take deep inspiration from such places, insisting on the value of the people found there, along with their experiences. What might be considered high and low culture are as inextricably linked in the formal cues of the poems as they are in the Michigan landscape, influenced by pop music, midcentury modern aesthetics, comic books, and cars.
While the sprawl of the title refers to the seemingly endless succession of businesses and neighborhoods extending north from Detroit (“a sprawl this extensive breeds / empty pockets”), it also invokes the sprawl of history through poems that move between the past and present. One sequence of poems built on old newspaper clippings draws attention to a Chrysler plant that once constructed Redstone missiles. Elsewhere, two poems refer to the Detroit newspaper strike of the 1990s, a local controversy with lasting implications for the community. Sprawl ultimately illuminates the relationship of one place to other places, contextualizing its characters and locales within a wider societal frame.
Andrew Collard’s poems have appeared in Ploughshares, AGNI, Virginia Quarterly Review, Best New Poets, and elsewhere. He currently lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan, with his son and their cats. More info →
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Retail price: $17.95, T.
Release date: March 2023
94 pages · 6 × 8½ in.
Release date: March 2023
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