EastOver Press is proud to announce the publication of a collection of poems, Surface Fugue, by Ralph Sneeden.
Whether set adrift in a marsh or canal, traversing battlefields or beaches, or wading the disorienting streams of adolescence and male identity, readers of Surface Fugue will engage with questioning poignancy and imagination the layers of history stifled by modernity. Plunging us through the ambiguous surfaces of time into the proximities of water-borne violence, predation, and occupation, Sneeden maintains perspective and scale with timely anchorages in the coves of elegy and personal memory. Vivid and experiential, these poems deliver reverie and threat with equal power; as the poet’s description of refraction suggests, “…a dipping oar / is able to inhabit both worlds.”
Of Surface Fugue, Ilya Kaminsky, author of Dancing In Odessa and Deaf Republic, said, “…Sneeden is a master of making lyrics where memory reveals its mysterium, its engine, and so we open the book, see boys bike to school through the 1970s, a squall of yellowjackets pour down a man’s throat, bike tires dip in the ochre ink of June’s pollen. And, when we think we understand this poet’s vision, he surprises us with pastures cropped by centuries of sheep. Surely, we realize right away that we are reading a poet with an unusual talent for making his remembered world into a place a reader can wander into and be stunned. Surely, there is something magnetic about Sneeden’s singing aloud of experience. Surely, this writing is an act of spell-making. Yes. But it is also so take-no-prisoners real, so of this world, so needled with humor and heart, so full of tax returns and U-boats, and tow trucks, that even skeptics among us will stand up defenseless. Which is to say: I love how Sneeden marries this world to wonder, how he asks not just what memory is, but what our kids’ memories will be. I love how always—for this poet of New England—the geography his poetry takes and makes is all the beaches of New England, yes, but also of the mind. Bravo!”
Michael Collier, author of The Ledge and Dark Wild Realm, said, “In Ralph Sneeden’s remarkable second book of poems, the poet’s descriptive attentions are so acute as to lead us deftly and inexorably into ‘a world we couldn’t see,’ a world that lies ‘fathoms’ below the surface of experience, or where, ‘A wave’s wall / is the surface / on its side.'”
Willie Perdomo, author of The Crazy Bunch, said, “Like a musician who has spent months in his woodshed, Sneeden emerges with brilliant variations on distance and memory, distillations of history and love, a sublime mix of self-reflection and intimacy juxtaposed with a larger world view…You are in the presence of a poet who understands that in order to parse a life and trace the steps to identity, a scar needs to be exposed before it can begin to heal.”
Sneeden’s poems and essays have appeared in AGNI, The Common, Ecotone, Harvard Review, The Kenyon Review, New England Review, The New Republic, Ploughshares, Slate, Southwest Review, The Surfer’s Journal, and many other magazines. His book Evidence of the Journey (Harmon Blunt 2007) was a finalist (in previous forms) for the Walt Whitman Award (Academy of American Poets) and The Yale Series of Younger Poets. Poems in it have been featured on Poetry Daily and received the Friends of Literature Prize from POETRY magazine. The title poem of Surface Fugue was nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and the book, in earlier forms, was a semi-finalist for the National Poetry Series, and finalist for the Lena-Miles Wever Todd Poetry Prize and the May Swenson Poetry Award. Sneeden has received fellowships from MacDowell, Columbia University Teachers College and the American School in London. He was born in Los Angeles but has lived for many years in New England, currently in New Hampshire where he teaches at Phillips Exeter Academy.