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Dirt Eaters

Teri Youmans Grimm


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"Teri Youmans Grimm’s first collection of poetry is a marvelous beginning. She is a clear-eyed, bemused observer of her kinfolk. There is tenderness here, too. These poems will make you wish that all families, even those that don’t deserve it, had such a wise, compassionate chronicler."--Judith Hemschemeyer

With vivid characters and striking details, the poems in Dirt Eaters recount the author's examination of her Cracker and southern ancestry in a way that extends beyond the familial to include a region and class sometimes maligned, sometimes romanticized, and often misunderstood. In these haunted, lyric narratives, culture, religion, and class collide. The resulting poems serve tribute to a place and its people through examination of sin and redemption, darkness and light, haves and have-nots, and shame and pride.

The book was born of the consequences of leaving a place and family steeped in the history and traditions of the South. The poet, having moved to the Midwest, has become a sort of expatriate in her father's eyes, and she herself has underestimated the hold that home would have over her. These poems are a mystical journey back through her ancestry. The dead serve as conjurers and characters both real and mythologized throughout the collection--Uncle Seward, who uses dice and the Bible as a means of prophecy; blind Aunt Ater, who finds solace and doom in biblical numbers; an unlucky man facing certain death as he stands on an alligator's back; and women who gorge themselves on dirt--all find their way back to life in these poems. Dirt Eaters seeks grace in the unlikeliest of people and places. Bound up with the peculiar, however, is the poet's own desire to reconcile the handed-down shame and faulty pride within herself as well as the religion of the ecstatic within her own quiet questioning.

Teri Youmans Grimm, a former instructor at the Writer's Workshop at the University of Nebraska, Omaha, is editor-at-large with Zoo Press.

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"Strongly narrative and thick with equal parts dust, humidity, and brimstone, Dirt Eaters is a wistful collection that manages to make a reader pine for his long-lost hardscrabble roots."
--orlandoweekly.com

"[Grimm] brings more to the table than you could imagine."
--Florida Today

"Grimm's technique shows in her judicious quotation from other speakers and in her diversity of forms, from two-beat lines to expansive verse paragraphs to a tightly wound villanelle."
--The New York Times Book Review

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