Death haunts the pages of Natural Causes, but so does compassion and love. There is little darkness here, and less despair, despite the abundance of cemeteries, loss, and ghosts—both real and imagined.
Mark Cox’s youthful bravado has given way in these poems to an assured sense of understatement. The weight of fatherhood, the loss of a grandmother, the fear of loneliness—these are the details around which Cox plumbs the depths of mortality and memory.
Fully comfortable with the domestic tableau from which he writes, this is a poet never complacent. The penchants for metaphor and the resonant turn of phrase that informed Cox’s earlier work remain as vibrant as ever, indeed are heightened, as he masterfully affirms and celebrates the range of familial complexity and human connectedness.
Unflinching and beautifully made, these poems seem cynical only at first glance—then perplexed and tender.
One of the best books I've read in years. In a style that's brash, offbeat, tough minded, and big hearted, these poems explore the fundamental mysteries of love between parent and child, self and other, self and world.
Tender beyond belief, uncannily lyrical, morbid and funny and smart, Cox is a master poet of the mystery of presence.
Had me hooked by the time I reached the fifth poem . . . salt-of-the-earth lyricism worth simmering over. Reading it felt like watching the morning mist hovering over my grandparents' backyard creek burn away.
This collection teems with rich images and rings with a vibrant voice.
Vivid memory intertwines with a rigorously envisioned present and future. Cox has touched on these matters in earlier books, but not so consistently or wish such uncanny thematic force. He speaks across a huge range or subject and feeling, from layered fury to astringent violence to lamentation, from guarded hopefullness to affirmations at once quiet and stirring. It is, altogether, an astonishing and moving tour de force.
These poems are well-crafted and for me, more importantly, well-dreamt. I felt ghosts of William Stafford and Rilke smiling as Cox chased his life through its convolutions. This is not a light romp. There are tombstones and heartache, lonely truckers and the achingly beautiful and transient natural world. . . .This is a book for those unafraid to do the work of living and remembering. It is well worth the sweat and the risk."
Mark Cox, professor of creative writing at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, has received many prominent honors and awards. He is the author of three previous books of poetry, including Thirty-Seven Years from the Stone.