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Hardscrabble: Poems (The VQR Poetry Ser.) Paperback – April 15, 2008
From Publishers Weekly
In his debut, McFadden is big on wordplay, particularly anagrams. Attempting to make meaning of the similarities in words—how words as arrangements of letters may connect associatively—McFadden fashions a book too coherent to be Language Poetry, though it certainly pays its respects: Can't tell your oh from your ah? Go, go or else/ go ga-ga. What, were you born in a barn? Oh. Longer poems show a less self-conscious and more ruminative sensibility. In Famed Cities, the narrator reflects on memories of growing up in Ohio via a survey of cities in short poems rife with both cynicism and nostalgia. Typically, Cleveland is broken down to word bits: C-level fits:/ the even keel, average but no slacker. The poems are often a mouthful, and one occasionally wants more seriousness, but this debut showcases a wild and powerful wit in action. (Apr.)
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Kevin McFadden is a no-bards-holed word playniac.(Kay Ryan author of The Niagara River)
These limber, overcaffeinated poems spring off the page like Olympic athletes, their motto not 'Faster, Higher, Stronger' but 'Smarter, Funnier, Wiser.' The stadium in which they run and leap is plastered with road signs, biblical misprints, anagrams, McFaddenisms of every kind. And everywhere, cups of precious metal, ones from which the reader will drink again and again.(David Kirby author of The House on Boulevard St.: New and Selected Poems)
In its approach to subject matter, the poetry of Kevin McFadden recalls that of those hard-boiled chroniclers of the American scene, writers such as Kenneth Fearing and Karl Shapiro. Yet the swiftness of McFadden's poems and their supercharged associative thinking make these earlier writers seem like dial-up to McFadden's DSL. I love the ambition, quirkiness, and technical brio of these poems. Hardscrabble is a singular debut.(David Wojahn author of Interrogation Palace: New and Selected Poems)
This debut showcases a wild and powerful wit in action.(Publishers Weekly)
We've all heard of brain food, and the debut book of poems from Kevin McFadden . . . is a full-course meal for the gray matter. One of a handful of books in the new Virginia Quarterly Review Poetry Series, Hardscrabble offers pun after home-cooked pun, and the result is a satisfying saturation. Informally divided into three courses by a 28-page riff of a prose poem, Hardscrabble wrings us through a whiplash-quick examination of language in all its elements―sound, structure, and sense―and leaves us full and reeling. And, like many a delicious home-cooked meal, the main course is so rich in texture we can almost forgive the way it makes our middles sag . . . Unlike many contemporary poets, it is through McFadden's work and wit, rather than a spirit of personal revelation, that we are able to savor these poems.(Laura Eve Engel C-ville, Charlottesville News & Arts)
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