In this impressively/intricately layered twenty-six poem collection, Ray provides an honest depiction of true reflection on the human condition, its contemplations during recovery/treatment, and its process of rehabilitation from that experience. The opening quote (“To care for what we know requires care for what we don’t, the world’s lives dark in the soil, dark in the dark“ – Wendell Berry) is not only appropriately placed, but a welcomed precursor to such a powerful body of work.
“When I create a book of poetry, it’s more about investigating the shape of a feeling, rather than writing in service of a unifying idea.”
The only way to discuss Quiet, Grit & Glory is to consider its pieces and the intertwined juxtapositions. Ray begins with: “I want to close the eyes of my eyes…leaving all the arguments of the flesh to cancel one another out“ (Pain: 8 on a Scale of 10). I found myself mystified by the depth in the simplicity of his words. To find the subtle reference to this in Good Men Die and Mediocre Men Fill Their Shoes, yet still be in awe of the soul bearing approach Ray presents, is something that will stay with me for as long as his words find space in my mind. A common theme utilized here is the evaluation of the self and its circumstance. This is explicitly seen in Self Portraits in Crayola, Yeast and Violets and Petty Theft. I make a strong point to note the beauty in the variation of approach seen in pieces like Charlie and Providence.
“I think QG&G has a rollercoaster effect of ups and downs, defeats and buoyancies, that I didn’t really intend, but that, in hindsight, mimics the trajectory of a suffering-born care for whatever crosses the threshold of perception.”
I think in review and in discussion, there is the subjective response to if a body of work is liked. Personally, I ask “is this body of work respectable?” Many of the pieces in this book challenged me. While some baffled me, others stirred tears I frequently wipe while composing this review. Ray is not a poet of light subject matter, but is not unable to approach feather weight conversations. Post read I find myself reflecting upon things he said, questions he asked, and points of view he presented. From here I simply refer to his words: “To go on? It’s easy: you open your mouth, you take in little sips of light.” (How to Go On)
Quiet, Grit & Glory is nothing short of the respective definitions which explain the words composing its title. To answer your question, I respect Ray’s work in ways I cannot explain. I also send well wishes to his muse and friend Addie. May she find breath to continue to inspire him.
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