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Murder Ballads Paperback – April 1, 2005

4.5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Jake Adam York is the author of MURDER BALLADS (Elixir Press, 2005) and A Murmuration of Starlings (Southern Illinois University Press, 2008). Now an associate professor at the University of Colorado at Denver and Health Sciences Center, York edits Copper Nickel with his students.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 80 pages
  • Publisher: Elixir Press; First Edition edition (April 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1932418156
  • ISBN-13: 978-1932418156
  • Product Dimensions: 0.2 x 6 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,069,587 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The past doesn't so much haunt the present in Jake Adam York's *Murder Ballads*. Rather, the past and present become mingled, smoke from the same fire. Alabama native and editor for *storySouth* and *Copper Nickle*, York has a sense of the past and past's continuing presence, an awareness he shares with the best southern poets, writers like Rodney Jones and David Bottoms.

The poems in *Murder Ballads* aren't actual murder ballads, per se; but they do carry the same preoccupations with culpability and death. In York's capable hands, the south becomes not only culpable in the history of Jim Crow. The south is also a victim. York refuses easy blame games. Racism and southern history provide a backdrop for the volume, but history, both private and public, is York's main theme.

In "Elegy for James Knox," York muses on a black Alabama convict whose death in 1924 led to the eventual end of Alabama's convict-labor program. "Because a shackle is never enough to hold a man," the poem begins, referring to the shackles that held Knox. However, the shackles alone don't hold a body: "the body must be made/to hold the man." By the end of the poem, the speaker realizes that ultimately, he can never escape the shadow of this crime. Looking at a small piece of iron, the speaker muses:

. . . I think of you,

a small, hard strip of Alabama

that's losing, that's turning back

red as the clay that buries it all--

was it ever, will it ever be, enough?

The poem's final question resonates throughout this impressive collection as York's speakers wrestle and attempt to come to terms with the past, all the while knowing that they can never escape it and never defeat it.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I really liked this collection. I'm sad that I didn't discover him until he died. I look forward to reading more of his poems.
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