"I set desire / on fire / and she screamed
I couldn't tell / if the scream
was agony / or ecstasy
what's the difference?" - From 'What's Left'
"and when we settle into our dens at night, we talk of you, as one might talk of a cupped hand, fading slowly, the rest of the body long departed: a rusty bucket, offering water-all that's left of a god. " - From 'Somewhere in Indiana'
Ricky Ray entwines the beauty of the world and his love of life with the weight of physical pain he shoulders daily, in this stunning chapbook which urges you to find new meaning in nature's mysterious workings: "Every time I look up/ into a canopy, I see a mind at work."
In The Sound of the Earth Singing to Herself, Ricky Ray invokes the animalistic yet the utterly, undeniably humane. Visiting the most intimate corners of memory, this is a chapbook that promises linguistic prowess and the healing - however raw - of the ache of living. From Indiana, Florida, and Oklahoma to the inescapable moment of our own death, the moment the sun sinks below the horizon, the moment 'the cancer / bloomed like an angry / flower in her liver', Ray's language is masterful, transfixed on elevating the mundane and exposing every private moment of our existence. - Kayla Jenkins, Writer
'The Sound of the Earth Singing to Herself'
"Ricky Ray's The Sound of the Earth Singing to Herself is a private archive of "unholstered" embodiment, imagining disability not as a disconnect or alienation from the environment but as a curious kinship with it, a shared "scream" in which there is no difference between "agony" and "ecstasy," the speaker's body and "Oklahoma," "generations of teeth" and "somewhere in Indiana." This is a new song of an old but still echoing America, in which "sludgehearted" monsters emerge triumphant while families live on "dog biscuits," frantically attempting to preserve whatever is "left of a god." Both cruelly and comfortingly, Earth Singing reminds us every god and monster in this country, including the land, will "go to rot" together one day. And whether characterized as tragic or sublime, this coalescence is a melody we are already humming deep down."
-Dylan Krieger, author of Giving Godhead (Delete, 2017), The Mother Wart (Vegetarian Alcoholic, 2019), Metamortuary (Nine Mile, 2020) and Soft-Focus Slaughterhouse (11:11, forthcoming).
"In one of the poems in this chapbook, Ricky Ray writes "living takes time, and I want you / to stay with me." It's just one tender, honest moment in this collection of deep, effervescent tenderness. Throughout The Sound of the Earth Singing to Herself, Ricky's poems ask the world to stay just a little longer. They admit, with grace, what they don't understand. They offer thanks. But what they do most singularly is care. Ricky's poems care about life, love, dogs, birds, gentleness, unknowing, wonder, and more. Poetry is a kind of witness, and each poem in this chapbook bears such gentle witness to this world, a world that sings and kills and births, all at once. They, as one poem states, "sneak a peak" even when the world's "too tender" to watch. What to do when the world is not enough? Read Ricky's poems. What to do when the yearning feels unbearable? Read Ricky's poems. What to do when you want to heal, even when healing feels impossible? Read Ricky's poems. To read this book is to learn, just a little bit better, how to live."
-Devin Kelly, author of In This Quiet Church of Night, I Say Amen (Civil Coping Mechanisms, 2017) and Blood on Blood (Unknown Press, 2016)
Ricky Ray is a disabled poet, critic, essayist and the founding editor of Rascal: A Journal of Ecology, Literature and Art. He is the author of the full-length collection, Fealty (Diode Editions, 2019), and two chapbooks: Quiet, Grit, Glory (Broken Sleep Books, 2020), and The Sound of the Earth Singing to Herself (Fly on the Wall Press, 2020). His awards include the Cormac McCarthy Prize, the Ron McFarland Poetry Prize, and a Liam Rector fellowship. His work appears widely in periodicals and anthologies, including The American Scholar, Verse Daily, Diode Poetry Journal and The Moth. He was educated at Columbia University and the Bennington Writing Seminars, and lives on the outskirts of the Hudson Valley, where he can be found hobbling in the old green hills with his old brown dog, Addie.