The Black River Chapbook Competition Winner


In stock (can be backordered)

Mountain Redemption

Publication Date: January 2014


Winner of the Fall 2011 Black River Chapbook Competition

A one-armed barber burns the family farmhouse to the ground. A pair of poachers carve their initials into the carcass of a deer. A father begs his son to spare him from the nursing home. A donkey brays the name of St. Catherine, but no one is around to notice. In Nick McRae’s Mountain Redemption, these portraits and many others blur legend and autobiography into a vision of the world that is dark, but not devoid of hope. From gritty North Georgia mountaintowns to the mythic landscapes of the Bible, McRae’s poems of place and history interrogate Christian mythos and the legacy of Southern ruralism as they weave together beauty with violence, family with faith, elegy with praise, and story with song.


At first, the double-barreled shotgun blast,
and then the dull, wet thump and metal clank
the snake made as he dropped it chunk by chunk
into a pail. With eyes clamped shut, I’d missed

the kill. I felt a rough hand clasp my wrist
as his tobacco wafted close: Boy, think
before you walk out here alone. The stink
of blood and gunshot ripened as he passed

the pail beneath my face. I’d heard of snakes
the size of a man’s leg, been taught to steer
away from brush and dark thickets. I squealed

as Grandpa palmed my forearm like an axe.
He thrust my hand into the cooling mire
of meat and scales then held me as I bawled.


“In Nick McRae’s splendid Mountain Redemption, the contradictions of family and faith are hard to hold in balance. They are the fulcrum of a teeter totter that tips back and forth between passion and violence. But as he meditates on growing up in Georgia and the complexities of the faith he was born into, the poet himself is balanced, thoughtful, judicious-and loving. As he struggles to sustain that love, McRae sometimes borrows the cadences-large, passionate, and elegiac-of the prophets he knows so well: ‘Where, O Lord, is the home I only almost had- / mythic, bloody as a psalm in the mouths / of old and dying men who will take it / with them wholly when they go?'”

-Andrew Hudgins

These rich and strange but familiar and American poems remind us that the roots of the American language are in Jacobean English, the English codified in the King James Authorized Version of the Bible-a text often quoted in this book. In every mark of dialect, in every turn of a country phrase, we still hear a language that Shakespeare and Jonson would have recognized. But the experience-what would they have made of that? It is familiar to us, it is authentic, and this latest rendering also reminds us that our language originally redeemed the heart and soul of English. Nick McRae’s book prods us with the memory of that redemption. It is one to treasure.”

-Mark Jarman

About the Author

Nick McRae

Nick McRae is the author of Mountain Redemption, winner of the Fall 2011 Black River Chapbook Competition, as well the De Novo Prize-winning full-length The Name Museum (C&R Press, 2013). He is the editor of the anthology Gathered: Contemporary Quaker Poets (Sundress Publications, 2013). His poems, reviews, and translations appear in Cincinnati ReviewHayden's Ferry ReviewLinebreakThe Southern ReviewThird Coast, and elsewhere. He serves as associate editor for 32 Poems, poetry coordinator for the annual Best of the Net anthology, and is a member of the Sewanee Writers' Conference staff. Born in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and raised in the Northwest Georgia foothills, Nick earned an M.F.A. in creative writing at The Ohio State University and is currently a Robert B. Toulouse Doctoral Fellow in English at the University of North Texas.

Visit Author Page