Organized around the canonical prayer hours beginning in the evening and moving into morning (vespers compline vigils lauds) and set in an ethereal South Texas landscape the poems in John Fry's debut collection With the Dogstar as My Witness wrestle with theological and deeply personal concerns in language that is wrenched almost to breaking but which holds after all and forms a tapestry of (sometimes tortured) prayer.
John Fry received an AB in English from Davidson College in North Carolina and an MFA in Poetry from Texas State University-San Marcos. He is the author of the chapbook silt will swirl (New Border 2012). His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Colorado Review West Branch Blackbird Tupelo Quarterly Bellingham Review Washington Square Ruminate and Waxwing among other places as well as in the anthologies New Border Voices (Texas A&M UP 2014) and Imaniman: Poets Writing in the Anzaldúan Borderlands (Aunt Lute 2016). Fry is currently a doctoral candidate at the University of Texas at Austin where he is writing a dissertation on medieval English literature.
"With the Dogstar as My Witness is a document of terrible longing that we are born for so many hearts &lsquopromised benediction our goodbyes / blackened our altars.' In poems spread across the page-syntactic breaks in breath and hope-Fry suggests that we are never truly content with divine absence. He looks not for substitute but salves. He travels the wilderness the desert of desire." -Nick Ripatrazone The Millions
"In the tradition of the literature of the spirit one hopes to find both breath (spirit) and matter (body) rather than an old and exclusionary divide between what in the human can be admitted to the divine. John Fry's poems like the lyrics of Fanny Howe or Jean Valentine seem committed to this light unlacing of truths from traditions place the experience of the spiritual with the individual life not with a canon of law or institution. Doubters are saintly and certainty is dispersed in this wise warm book."-Kazim Ali
"When Flannery O'Connor wrote &lsquoI have been reading Mr. Kafka and I feel his problem of getting grace ' she wrote it in a prayer. With John Fry's impressive debut comes the call to join with the voices he embodies where the possibility and history of grace might touch. Do touch. The view is celestial: literal stars actual God. From inside these poems we sense pressure at the mouth in lines often made with necessary brevity engaged with silences as they are. His sumptuous enjambments insist on inquiry as the highest unfurling gesture and the body as its most reliable source. These poems are earthly tender wounded and sharp as they contend with spiritual pain and its redress undress."-Kathleen Peirce
"Perhaps the promises of Christianity-forgiveness redemption everlasting life-are felt most keenly by those from whom they are withheld by orthodoxy. And though With the Dogstar as My Witness describes the inevitable painful estrangement felt by a queer raised in the church Fry's beautifully wrought lyrics refuse to let go of the faith. Built in part from repurposed Biblical language and narrative they articulate a theology of want populated by startling images that capture &lsquothe loneliness of limestone's / memory of water.' Rejecting the orthodox assumption that queers are prodigal Fry persists as a rightful pilgrim who places desire at the center of a prayerful language fashioned from ecstatic ravishing embodiment. Like any ritual done in good faith these poems offer up the starkest needs of a soul that never stops expecting a blessing."-Brian Teare
"John Fry's debut collection of poetry movingly recounts the peregrinated process of holy reencounter as a walk through the watches of the night into a dawn light of acknowledgment. These poems wrestle their way through a series of new names-Eve and Lazarus Mary and Judas and others-in order to produce a new physicalized credo: breathing itself as a manifestation of spirit &lsquolistening with / my whole skin.' Such work in Fry's playful music honors how entwined are bewilder and believe."-Kimberly Johnson