Praise for Natural Selections:
“Joseph Campana’s Natural Selections gently reminds us of the brutal fact that the mythic world remains present in this one. Subtly inverting the Orpheus myth, Campana suffers his beloved’s loss—a division that leads not to an underworld quest, but to wandering the rural roads of Ohio, where the poet does not sing so that the world hears him, but more humbly, more importantly, sings so as to listen to the world.”—Dan Beachy-Quick, editor, Colorado Review, and author, This Nest, Swift Passerine
“Like James Wright and Sherwood Anderson—both of whom he pays homage to in this stunning collection—Joseph Campana understands that the Midwest is less a place than a strangely inscrutable state of mind, where our losses and vulnerabilities are shown in terrifyingly high relief. This is to say that Campana also understands—as too few poets do these days—that the principal business of the lyric poem is heartbreak. As he puts it in one of the book’s most characteristic efforts, ‘How potent the longing, / how potent the fear. / The two as one, the two / as hawk and shadow.’ Campana’s poems haunt, instruct, and console me.”—David Wojahn, author, World Tree and Spirit Cabinet
Whether wandering the paths of the imagination, driving through sparsely populated countryside, or listening for the voices of animals, Natural Selections attends to the ways we are indelibly marked by habitat. Shot full of accidental attachments and reluctant transience, this book produces from vibrant contradiction potent song. In poems both lyric and expansive, Natural Selections finds in the simplicity and strangeness of middle America a complex metaphysics of place and an uncanny perspective reminiscent of landscapes of Grant Wood. Birds and beasts, frequent storms, country roads, a fraught election, and some of Ohio’s literary guardian angels (James Wright, Hart Crane, and Sherwood Anderson), haunt the poems. Whether enigmatically refracted or brutally direct, these poems attend to the way life is beautifully, violently, and unexpectedly marked by place.
With a boldness of vision that might overwhelm a lesser talent, Joseph Campana gives us a collection of poems guided by a focused intelligence and yet containing wonderment and awe at its heart. By turns ferocious and charming, contemporary and mythic, grief-stricken and funny, the poet’s voice is always original, direct, and pitch-perfect. The poems in this book are a wonder.