The St. Lawrence Book Award Winner


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American Mastodon

Publication Date: December 2011


Winner of the St. Lawrence Book Award, American Mastodon presents a land of absences, monsters, perfect sandwiches, and opposites. Here Sasquatch hides in Sears at Christmas. The night sky remembers a dog that died in orbit, compliments of the Soviets. And here, in the beginning, a five-foot-four human girl was sniffed for by the hounds who stayed on Earth. Ricca presents a surreal world located two steps to the left of our own, capable of not only laughter, but terrible violence and pain.


“In American Mastodon, we meet a brash and arresting presence on the po-biz scene. “The Terrible Salon” made me guffaw, as did “Bartleby and Emily Dickinson’s First Date” but Brad Ricca is no trifling comedian; for as several poems (notably “Open-Ended MRI”) triumphantly demonstrate, his insights strike deep. Go ahead and buy this book now; you may need to stand in line to buy his next one.”

-X.J. Kennedy

It’s not surprising that a voice already this mature can astonish and delight you with an otherworldly study of insomnia, the hysterical political hubris of “Non-Diplomatic Solution” and a post-structural take on the super-villains. But what I love about Ricca’s work is that he can infuse queuing at the supermarket with the same resonant wonder and strangeness-and it’s through straightforward honesty as much as the intensity of the synaesthetic colours and wild imagery. The poems gather weight as they progress-an unbearable sadness pervades works such as ‘This Old Year’ and ‘This Ends Now’, a tone which becomes positively moving in ‘Open-Ended MRI’. And that’s the crux: what’s the point in registering absurdity if your poetics isn’t founded in compassion? Ricca is pioneering a linguistically inventive kind of surrealism shot through with humanity and emotional intelligence; it’s a voice and style I’m enthralled to see.”

-Luke Kennard

Brad Ricca’s prize-winning debut poetry collection features a funny, sometimes scary menagerie of monsters. As if straight from central casting, a golem and Godzilla, Sasquatch and even ‘the zombie Yeats,’ stalk Ricca’s pages. Caged in by the DMV and an MRI, the poet knows he is practicing his craft as an American mastodon, i.e., a species that might just as well be extinct in our twenty-first-century sports-and-business-oriented iCulture. Just in time, he has fathered poems that trumpet like shaggy beasts in such inhospitable habitats as Ray, Ohio, as well as in Cleveland. Read this book and keep the mastodon alive.”

-James Reiss

Reading American Mastodon is like freewheeling on the back of Brad Ricca’s tandem across the span of our disjointed times while watching the Discovery Channel. Bartleby, Dickinson, Guevara, and Mickey Mouse all loiter en route while Ricca keeps the wheels spinning so effortlessly, we understand something without even trying. Ricca’s talent is various, fluid, mobile. A bustling, boisterous, mischievous book, the kind of book you should keep on you always, everywhere.”

-Heather Phillipson

About the Author

Brad Ricca

Brad Ricca was the winner of the St. Lawrence Book Award for American Mastodon (Black Lawrence Press, 2011), which was featured on A Writer's Almanac with Garrison Keillor and named "Best Poetry Debut" by Cleveland Magazine. He has had poetry appear in The Coe Review, The Kerf, 6ix, Black Dirt, White Pelican Review, Marco Polo, Caesura, Albatross, and elsewhere. His new nonfiction book Super Boys (St. Martin's Press, 2013) is about Superman. His film Last Son won a 2010 Silver Ace Award at the Las Vegas International Film Festival. He lives and works in Cleveland.

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