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“Rank has dark fumes, but it’s rich as loam, with a propulsive power inside: the thorny terror that ends in a scarlet flower. McCollough’s tight verses crackle and chime—sonically rich and lexically wild—their syllables so deeply cast you can almost hear other syllables in them, worlds within worlds. Bones clacking and muscles moaning, their physicality makes meaning audible, and the pain becomes prayerful, ‘a rendition of, at least, eternity.’”—Aaron Shurin

“McCollough’s poems in Rank, as in most of his collections, come from the inner part of himself that is a cosmic being. He tunes into the cosmos and receives it, which is what being alive is: ‘I could kill for the songs, I could.’ Poetry comes from this ongoing inner state of being, between listening to the cosmos and responding to it. McCollough’s vision of eternity and our verdant patch of it is at once practical and mysterious. At some point while reading these poems, you’ll think of listening to the song ‘Nothing but Flowers’ by the Talking Heads. Strumming a guitar makes a flower bloom. The corporeal world is rank, grows over, around, above, inside, and without us. Let the universe in and change you.”— Arda Collins

“I guess an iceflow came through / to take the road,” writes Aaron McCollough in Rank, a richly strange sequence of poems in which forces of nature, mind, spirit, and language partake of each other in vibrant and shifting ways. “I can only guess that would / destroy these remains slowly,” McCollough continues. Indeed, Rank seeks to recover sources of imaginative meaning from the unsettled remnants of lyric tradition, seeking out possibilities for belief and sustenance in the echoes of lapsed poetic speech and song.

In language that is dense, allusive, by turns trancelike and mordantly funny, McCollough descends into the ranks of disintegrating organic life and finds elemental processes of regeneration underway, “ivy suckers climbing / the knock kneed craning bridge / to that bright food.” This is work that emerges in the aftermath of declining systems of hierarchy and order, a site marked by the overlapping of occult practices and postmodern physics, tense meditation, and economic anonymity. McCollough gives rise to a voice that is as much vegetative as human, as deeply embedded in the loam of cultural memory as it is new, original, and lavishly daring.


walnut skull of some brutal fairy

run afoul of my dog

in the juniper mire

 what depends

in these binds,

passion strings,

ivy suckers climbing

the knock kneed craning bridge

to that bright food

can freedom even begin to form

in the morning, reforming blossoms

if we mean to tread with ease

may we move at all