With the Dogstar as My Witness
Poems by John Fry
Finalist for The 2017 Orison Poetry Prize
Named an October 2018 “Must-Read” by The Millions
104 pp. / paper / $16.00
Distributed to the trade by Itasca Books
1-800-901-3480 / firstname.lastname@example.org
Publication Date: October 2, 2018
ABOUT THE BOOK
Organized around the Catholic canonical prayer hours, beginning in the evening and moving into morning (vespers, compline, vigils, lauds), and set in an ethereal South Texas landscape, the poems in John Fry’s debut collection, With the Dogstar as My Witness, wrestle with theological and deeply personal concerns in language that is wrenched almost to breaking, but which holds after all and forms a tapestry of (sometimes tortured) prayer.
“John Fry is a poet committed to restoring, perhaps even restorying, what we are allowed to imagine, what we are permitted to believe—about others, yes, and also about ourselves. […] [T]his collection is akin to a queer anointing for any reader who has ever felt lost, cast out, unwelcome.”
—Julie Marie Wade, Lambda Literary
“With the Dogstar as My Witness is a document of terrible longing that we are born for, so many hearts ‘promised benediction, our goodbyes / blackened our altars.’ In poems spread across the page—syntactic breaks in breath and hope—Fry suggests that we are never truly content with divine absence. He looks not for substitute, but salves. He travels the wilderness, the desert of desire.”
—Nick Ripatrazone, The Millions
“Fry’s truth shines like a living thing. He loves his religion and by the love seems to make it even greater. That could be one definition for eternity.”
—Grace Cavalieri, The Washington Independent Review of Books
“The heartrending yet redemptive poems in this collection are a poetic genuflection against theological doctrine but toward God. […] The truest testament to Fry’s adherence to a faith that has in many ways deserted him lies in the form and structure of the poems themselves; there is a hymnal quality to the lyric, chant, emphatic repetition, and passionate radiance of these poems, along with a spaciousness on the page that seems to beckon the reader to partake in a solemn worship.”
—Cindy Hochman, The Pedestal Magazine
“Tensions of conscience are laid bare in John Fry’s new book, a mobile poetics striking a delicate balance between personal and theological reference. […] The book feels like a pilgrimage of expiation and self-acceptance, as if the poems on the page were paving stones along a path, which allow religious orthodoxy to reconcile with the body’s commands.”
—Karen Kevorkian, Colorado Review
“In the tradition of the literature of the spirit one hopes to find both breath (spirit) and matter (body) rather than an old and exclusionary divide between what in the human can be admitted to the divine. John Fry’s poems, like the lyrics of Fanny Howe or Jean Valentine, seem committed to this light unlacing of truths from traditions, place the experience of the spiritual with the individual life, not with a canon of law or institution. Doubters are saintly and certainty is dispersed in this wise, warm book.”
“When Flannery O’Connor wrote, ‘I have been reading Mr. Kafka and I feel his problem of getting grace,’ she wrote it in a prayer. With John Fry’s impressive debut comes the call to join with the voices he embodies, where the possibility and history of grace might touch. Do touch. The view is celestial: literal stars, actual God. From inside these poems we sense pressure at the mouth, in lines often made with necessary brevity, engaged with silences as they are. His sumptuous enjambments insist on inquiry as the highest unfurling gesture, and the body as its most reliable source. These poems are earthly, tender, wounded, and sharp as they contend with spiritual pain and its redress, undress.”
“Perhaps the promises of Christianity—forgiveness, redemption, everlasting life—are felt most keenly by those from whom they are withheld by orthodoxy. And though With the Dogstar as My Witness describes the inevitable painful estrangement felt by a queer raised in the church, Fry’s beautifully wrought lyrics refuse to let go of the faith. Built in part from repurposed Biblical language and narrative, they articulate a theology of want populated by startling images that capture ‘the loneliness of limestone’s / memory of water.’ Rejecting the orthodox assumption that queers are prodigal, Fry persists as a rightful pilgrim who places desire at the center of a prayerful language fashioned from ecstatic, ravishing embodiment. Like any ritual done in good faith, these poems offer up the starkest needs of a soul that never stops expecting a blessing.”
“John Fry’s debut collection of poetry movingly recounts the peregrinated process of holy reencounter as a walk through the watches of the night into a dawn light of acknowledgment. These poems wrestle their way through a series of new names—Eve and Lazarus, Mary and Judas and others—in order to produce a new, physicalized credo: breathing itself as a manifestation of spirit, ‘listening with / my whole skin.’ Such work, in Fry’s playful music, honors how entwined are bewilder and believe.”
FROM THE BOOK
how do you explain it
birdwings like brushstrokes.
shadow of heaven there are still times.
a voice said in no dream.
if the stars outnumber the dead.
early morning sky I am almost convinced.
though the heart can be blown out.
night’s wreckage dawn’s always.
some people actually inhabit their bodies.
$16.00 Regular Price