foreword by Garrison Keillor
Volume 15 of the May Swenson Poetry Award Series, 2011
"About the Dead struck me on first reading as an adventurous book grounded in real places and real people, and reading it was like following the poet up a steep climb on a rocky slope as he improvised his route, and at every step I was struck by the rightness of his choices, surprised by so many odd words that seemed so exactly right."
Travis Mossotti writes with humor, gravity, and humility about subjects grounded in a world of grit, where the quiet mortality of working folk is weighed. To Mossotti, the love of a bricklayer for his wife is as complex and simple as life itself: "ask him to put into words what that sinking is,/that shudder in his chest, as he notices/the wrinkles gathering at the corners of her mouth." But not a whiff of sentiment enters these poems, for Mossotti has little patience for ideas of the noble or for sympathetic portraits of hard-used saints. His vision is clear, as clear as the memory of how scarecrows in the rearview, "each of them, stuffed/into a body they didn't choose, resembled/your own plight." His poetry embraces unsanctimonious life with all its wonder, its levity, and clumsiness. About the Dead is an accomplished collection by a writer in control of a wide range of experience, and it speaks to the heart of any reader willing to catch his "drift, and ride it like the billowed/end of some cockamamie parachute all the way/back to the soft, dysfunctional, waiting earth."
Listen to Garrison Keillor read "Crossing the Gap" on The Writer's Almanac.