Dorothy Barresi is the author of four previous books of poetry: American Fanatics; Rouge Pulp; The Post-Rapture Diner, winner of an American Book Award; and All of the Above, winner of the Barnard New Women Poets Prize. She is the recipient of two Pushcart Prizes and Fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the North Carolina Arts Council. She is professor of English and creative writing at California State University, Northridge.
The poems in What We Did While We Made More Guns investigate the place where economic failure meets a widening acculturation of violence—a kind of Great Acceleration of soul extinction set in this spectacularly uneasy moment in American history. Cutting, comic, sorrowful, at times terrified, at times resolute, the poems tilt along the high cliff’s edge of identity anxiety and American moral uncertainty, where each of us plays our part in the business of dispossession or resistance. Building themselves out of jazzed-up verbal velocities and wounded (in)sincerity, the poems counsel resilience against all forms of battery, mortal, spiritual, financial. They are pattern-makers in the dark. They talk back to God. They take into themselves what cannot be taken back: the news that forty-six million Americans have “slipped” below the poverty line; that guns discharge monstrously banal virility; that a black woman pulled over for a routine traffic violation dies by strangulation in her jail cell; that we buy and sell the myth of the American Dream as though our lives depended on it.
A book of contemporary poetry exploring the fine, shifting line between faith—secular and spiritual faith—and fanaticism in an insecure age, American Fanatics is a lyrical, pop-culture inflected meditation on democracy, morality, beauty, commerce, and the cost of falling dreams.
Rouge Pulp explores notions of body and beauty, birth and death, in a contemporary America driven by its contradictions: material plenty and spiritual lack. Dorothy Barresi writes about strippers, hair salons, cancer, good credit ratings, cockfights, childbirth, maternal love, war. Her poems take the world’s brutal vitality as their music, and they refuse to despair.