Vertical Hold (Steel Toe Books, 2011)

Vertical Hold (Steel Toe Books, 2011)

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PRAISE

"Jeff Simpson is a poetic omnivore, devouring America right down to its bones, which may in fact resemble Mountain Dew bottles melted into emeralds. His poems find their inspiration in the cultural detritus of an American childhood, transforming those 'beauteous forms' into poems of geniality, wit and democratic accessibility. 'You could read Wordsworth or the back of a Kix cereal box/ and find beauty and truth,' he asserts, and by the end of Vertical Hold I am ready to believe him. What choice do we have in a world in which Tintern Abbey has been supplanted by Miami Vice, Led Zeppelin, and Highlander 2: The Quickening?"
—Campbell McGrath

"This amazing first book—part sprinter, part long distance runner, part song, part sly wit, part visionary, part historian, part sophisticate, part roughneck—smokes like a grass fire across the Oklahoma landscape right into the whole world. There’s not much Jeff Simpson hasn’t observed and thought through in these big, gorgeously crafted poems, and I know I’ll read Vertical Hold many times without exhausting its energy and romance."
—Lisa Lewis

"[In] Vertical Hold, people, things, and situations change as frequently and dynamically as the weather of the Great Plains, a place where cold fronts barrel down from Canada and ride up over moisture-laden warm fronts from Mexico to engender Coke bottle-green skies, chaotic winds and, sometimes, tornadoes. [...] Unresolvable tensions between change and stasis, between jazz-like postmodernism and folk-like regionalism, underlie this tight, gutsy, and impressive collection." (Full review in RATTLE)
—Timothy Bradford

"Here's the thing about Vertical Hold: the particulars that make these poems real, the grain and the grit, the flames and the tires, the junkyards and the alcohol, the babies and maybe babies, the lurching nature that slinks and punches through the mess we've made of things, and most especially the rare and elusive grace that may sometimes silver the proceedings... Well, it's so very particular that you can't help but think of where you yourself come from. You can't help but realize how little you've slipped your native ground's nooses and, simultaneously, how grateful you are for that same problematic place. And it's not just that: these poems have VHS cassettes in them, or perhaps they themselves are VHS cassettes. One way or another, they've got the Hollywood dreams of an entire century tattooed to vulnerable, temporary, weak-ass tape, played on wonky boxes of glass and light. These poems, like those same cassettes, seem slid out of cardboard sleeves slicked up with neon titles and inscrutable credits wrapped around a compromised hero or heroine half-obscured by shadows or rain, and thus take us both to and from our lives. Descended from the Romantic poetries of Wordsworth and Whitman via James Wright and Larry Levis, Jeff Simpson's roving movies are narrated with the lyric ease of a subtle, strange country singer with one hand on the remote, one hand on a box of dominoes, and another on a jug of church or fire whose label makes an unkeepable promise. They find easy company with the work of contemporary (and tragically unsung) poets like Steve Scafidi, and they commend living in the world, even when they don't recommend the world they live in. Humans, do not sleep on this collection."
—Marc McKee