Grounded in the physical while asking metaphysical questions, the poems in Sweetclover detail love, wilderness, fracture, and union. They speak of wildflowers, the slant of a collarbone, the flight feathers of predatory birds, and the eye of winter. American Book Award winner Shann Ray’s affinity for Montana landscapes and the intimate heart of the beloved challenges the age of enragement with delight in those we are graced to know. Sweetclover is an honoring of marriage through individual and collective interpretations of the body in movement, silent, vocal, ethereal, muscular, transcendent. The fellow travelers in these poems cross mountain ranges to behold the intricacy of blue-capped tree swallows. Humbled by the heavens, the sequences in Sweetclover speak of walking hand in hand with the beloved, listening, and giving oneself sacrificially to better understand each other. Sweetclover posits the marriage bed beyond nihilism, where God speaks and lovers believe in absorbing the shadow, and finding their way to new life.
“Not torch song but full-throated anthem for the conflagration love tenders, Sweetclover offers an intimate libretto chronicling the kingdom of marriage in which a wife’s body reigns supreme. Ghostpipe, banner, burning house, river, hollowed bell, sugarbowl, fluted vase, mountain lily, weather vane – here’s the body ‘God made,’ disrobed, ‘gilded like a struck match,’ winged. Shann Ray is a poet of ecstasy, god-parented by Derrida and Dickinson, propelled to plumb terrain both spiritual and geographic for clarity around what it means to be embodied and consumed. Love letter writ large to the divine grandeur of Ray’s Montana home and his fellow sojourner, Sweetclover renders poems as consummate prayer.”
– Katrina Roberts, author of Friendly Fire
“Shann Ray’s Sweetclover is a book steeped in desire, a book of body and spirit. It strikes me, savoring these fine, wise poems, that love and religion share a vocabulary: ecstasy, rapture, devotion, faithfulness. In Sweetclover, married love is nothing less than holy.”
—Maggie Smith, author of Good Bones
“Ecstatic and haunted, tender and wild, Sweetclover opens with the violent, needful calls of elk and closes with the ‘jaw and body rise’ of the long-known love. And what a journey between. Herein we cross mountains and ford rivers, we reckon our deepest beliefs, come evening we hungrily hold ‘the hipbones of the beloved.’ Shann Ray is one of the most vital, necessary writers at work today, and whether novel or poem his project, I am beginning to understand, is nothing less than finding for himself and those he loves, as well as all the rest of us, ways of being whole in the body and whole in the world. And for that, I thank him.”
-Joe Wilkins, author of When We Were Birds
“Ray demonstrates his belief in love in the book of poetry, Sweetclover. It is dedicated to his wife and can be read as a series of love poems to her, about her, about his love for her. It is wild and earthy, sensual and spiritual. He pays homage to married love in all its dimensions. Readers attuned to the luscious landscapes of our region will find further delight with acts of love amid the mountains, rivers, prairies, flowers and boundless skies.
-Mindy Cameron, The Pacific Northwest Inlander
“This is a book of the very earth, of the bodies of men and women, and the spirit housed in the physical landscapes of each. As a whole, it is a love song to long marriage that calls back to Blake’s ‘heaven in a wildflower,’ shimmering with the compressed energy of the finite.”
-Matt Neinow, author of House of Water