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About Teri Youmans Grimm


Dirt Eaters
Copyright © 2004
by Teri Grimm
University Press of Florida
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With vivid characters and striking details, the poems in Dirt Eaters recount the author's examination of her Cracker and southern ancestry in a way that extends beyond the familial to include a region and class sometimes maligned, sometimes romanticized, and often misunderstood. In these haunted, lyric narratives, culture, religion, and class collide. The resulting poems serve tribute to a place and its people through examination of sin and redemption, darkness and light, haves and have-nots, and shame and pride.
The book was born of the consequences of leaving a place and family steeped in the history and traditions of the South. The poet, having moved to the Midwest, has become a sort of expatriate in her father's eyes, and she herself has underestimated the hold that home would have over her. These poems are a mystical journey back through her ancestry. The dead serve as conjurers and characters both real and mythologized throughout the collection — Uncle Seward, who uses dice and the Bible as a means of prophecy; blind Aunt Ater, who finds solace and doom in biblical numbers; an unlucky man facing certain death as he stands on an alligator's back; and women who gorge themselves on dirt — all find their way back to life in these poems. Dirt Eaters seeks grace in the unlikeliest of people and places. Bound up with the peculiar, however, is the poet's own desire to reconcile the handed-down shame and faulty pride within herself as well as the religion of the ecstatic within her own quiet questioning. — from the publisher

Teri Youmans Grimmís first collection of poetry is a marvelous beginning. She is a clear-eyed, bemused observer of her kinfolk. There is tenderness here, too. These poems will make you wish that all families, even those that donít deserve it, had such a wise, compassionate chronicler. — Judith Hemschemeyer

Teri Youmans Grimm's debut tells her own life story and those of her Southern rural relatives. As in Rita Dove's Thomas and Beulah, the emotional weight derives from her characters' accumulated experience: surviving a house fire, rejecting evangelical Christianity, or feeling stranded and lonely at a school dance. Grimm's technique shows in her judicious quotation from other speakers and in her diversity of forms, from two-beat lines to expansive verse paragraphs to a tightly wound villanelle. Turn-of-the-century ancestors' "chatty born-again ghosts" offer Grimm "a debt / no one ever really counts on collecting"; the poet herself remembers wearing "my sister's five-year-old / chiffon and pink polyester/ bridesmaid" dress as she competed (successfully) for the title of "Miss Senior High Duval County." — New York Times

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