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Natural history

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Winner, Gerald Cable Book Award, 2019

Jericho Brown: Craig Beaven’s Natural History asks necessary questions about family, fatherhood, and sonship in the midst of an America that refuses to be honest about how its families come to be, about how perfectly diverse they really are. What’s most astounding about this book, though, is its bold use of voice, its risky faith in abstraction, and its metaphysical reach: “Put a tree / standing in for death. / Tilt the whole scene / to the dark. Make each leaf / from a shard of stained glass.” Each poem is like the mind of a human, a man who might have the sense to change his mind. What a brilliant debut!

Nick Ripatrazone: One of the book’s central metaphors: what does it mean to preserve our world, our memories, ourselves? Natural History applies the concept of preservation to everything from museum curation to the biology of our lives: fertility, surrogacy, and parenting. What of ourselves do we hope to leave behind? Natural History is a book full of the struggle of living, of hopes dashed and dreams changed.


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Tony Hoagland: I've been as admirer of Craig Beaven’s poetry for years; for its deep focus as well as its immaculate craft. In Natural History the poet’s domestic life—impending parenthood and marriage—is often the foreground, but in the background of these poems is a deep, unsettling sense of history and time itself that haunts. Natural History is a deeply American, wonderfully accessible collection of poems, in voice, but it carries as well a freight of uncommon depths and shadows.

Laura van Prooyen: Beaven’s deep, empathic poems are remarkable. These richly detailed, observant poems intertwine domestic and vocational concerns, grappling with questions about production, reproduction, preservation, family and desire. 


This direct, honest voice does not shy away from interrogating painful growth that results in new understanding. This speaker is the sort who we trust, who we can imagine having open conversations with his future children, where no topic would be off-limits. This voice reveals a complex, thoughtful man who draws his conclusions based upon hard-won experience. This collection of poems speaks through the world of art to deftly address the human urge to create, delving deep into questions about longing and belonging. In Natural History, Beaven creates a clear-headed, insightful speaker who we trust to guide us through museum workrooms, medical procedures, and emotional complexity. This voice rings true.

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Jon Pineda: Craig Beaven’s collection Natural History is no ordinary debut. With startling candor and clarity, these poems, in turn, resonate with wisdom rendered from grievance and gratitude. It’s a mature vision projected by a measured voice. I’m in awe of what Beaven has done here.

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