From Library Journal
The theme of lost innocence has been thoroughly explored since William Blake, but in his first book Lee gives this theme a contemporary edge. Lamenting his inability to make "anything tide [him] over until the next life," Lee's speaker captures the essence of a generation: the angst, the dysfunctions, and the tragedy "of our simple humanness?an evolutionary extension/ of what might become." Yet the poems do not fall into the trap of melodrama, instead projecting a ray of hope in a world in which "the barbed wire fence drip[s] blood." Many of the poems are ambitious without being overwritten. Lee knows when to hammer have a point and when to invoke humor. As a result, the speaker is able to "look back/ on those grub years with fondness." This volume of poetry belongs in every poetry collection.?Tim Gavin, Episcopal Acad., Merion, Pa.
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David Dodd Lee opens Downsides of Fish Culture with an invitation to take a fork "and stab it into your hand." ("A Poem About Pike") later, in the poem "First Turtle," we ought to feel the pain before its headless body is left in the bucket to drain, but it tips the bucket and walks fifty yards away from it. Lee's poetry can be reminiscent of Ted Hughes' monosyllabic earthiness. In the title poem of the collection, Lee writes:
It came like a wave over the hot
the end of the first death,
the womb with the mechanized purr,
the truck almost like comfort
after the cracked walls
and scalps dragged
through black water, -- David Chorlton, Poet Lore, Volume 93, No. 2
In the poems of David Dodd Lee, the world of nature, impassioned, swift, is not just out there in the Michigan drifts-- it is in here, in us. How powerfully we are made to know this, beyond mere hope or reckless sorrow, is what I find most stunning-- and most frightening about his poems. -- Nancy Eimers
Lee reminds us that the richest act of imagination is-- above all else-- an act of empathy. Both the sadness and exhilaration in this poet's heart of hearts-- the living poem itself-- become the reader's too. This refreshingly original debut collection is full of fragile human atoms on the loose somewhere between versions of terror and sheer delight. We come to count on this poet's stubborn insistence: in the war against despair, the spoils of comfort and sustenance must be re-invented, again and again, on our dizzying everyday walks through the world. -- David Clewell
Like the natural world David Dodd Lee knows from the inside, his poems are comprised of grace and violence in equal parts, mesmerizing and inescapable rhythms, and dark but brightly lit imagery-- compelling poems sprung from the dark heart of American poetry. -- Rick Lyon