>> Strange Valentine

SIU Press, Winner of The Crab Orchard Series in Poetry First Book Award

87 pages

DENISE DUHAMEL on Strange Valentine: “A. Loudermilk’s Strange Valentine celebrates the tattered glamour of circus ‘freaks’ and trailer park matrons. Unforgettable narratives and tender lyrics weave pop culture and social history into a seamless and surprising vision. Loudermilk’s genius exploration of gender, class, and race is gutsy and gut-wrenching. Strange Valentine is a haunting and important first book.”

JULIA KASDORF on Strange Valentine: “Like many first collections concerned with the broad categories body and place, Strange Valentine carries a sense of urgency; these poems had to be written. But, unlike many urgent-feeling first books, the language in these poems is playful and interesting. A vernacular sensibility traces back to the locations the poems depict—trailer parks, bedrooms, hospital rooms, church—and there finds the sources of a fierce love. Common as its content and vocabulary may be, these poems are not merely plainspoken narratives; they tell it straight and slant; they pucker, cuss, pause for a smoke, cut loose, then close down or open up. They come at you like a country song, layered with cockiness, longing, raw sweetness, heartache, and just plain heart. Unafraid to go over the top or to dig deep, they are honest without being too earnest.”

from STEVE FELLNER‘s article “On Neglected Gay Poet A. Loudermilk, Natasha Saje, and Issues of Class” at the blog Pansy Poetics: “It would shock me if poet James Allen Hall has not read A. Loudermilk’s inexcusably neglected book Strange Valentine. It is undoubtedly an important literary predecessor to Hall’s own award-winning collection Now You’re the Enemy, which deals with class on its own terms. Both books talk to Saeed Jones’ important blog post “The Importance of Class & How to Write Ourselves Back to Relevancy.” More complicated in its technique and class analysis, Strange Valentine acts as an antidote to the number of the more mediocre poems in Hall’s exciting collection. Which is a book obviously by a young talent trying to find his own idiosyncratic vision. I think A. Loudermilk’s poems will, if they haven’t already, prove to be a touchstone for Hall.  What is instructive about A. Loudermilk’s poems is that they refuse in any way to romanticize poverty or at the same [time] make the claim that we’re all –even the middle-class–impacted by its reach. Some people do suffer more than others, and to pretend otherwise is a dangerous fallacy. Self-awareness doesn’t make you any less culpable for other peoples’ predicaments.”

 

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