Gnashing Teeth Publishing

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Shared Blood by Luke Wortley

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Check out the review on Trampoline.

Interview with Luke on Neon Pajamas

Shared Blood centers on the author’s fascination with and ultimate estrangement from his own father as he becomes a father himself. It navigates this space through surreal renderings of lived experience, fabulist narrative, and sometimes litanies of pure language. The author’s concerns with this book include fatherhood but also the idea of manhood in relation to being a parent, the generational effects of these forces, and the desire to overcome these forces in sometimes baffling ways. Ultimately, the reader will be led to question the use of the word “Dad,” especially if their relationship with their father is complicated.

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Reading Luke Wortley is like staring into an M.C. Escher drawing, trying to figure out the origins, finding stairways as layers and echoes of what is absent. In Wortley’s work, it is vital to understand how we rise up and build from loss, longing, and memory. This is a stunning, necessary collection. Bravo and welcome to this exciting prose poet.

When I think of the prose poem, I think of a sacred space in which the real and the surreal can safely cohabitate, where strangeness can unfurl through small snippets of life like a red carpet. Luke Wortley’s Shared Blood is a gorgeous and imaginative exemplar of how the prose poem can help us process difficult realities. The speaker of these poems moves seamlessly between reality and dreamscape, between the pain of being an estranged son and the anxiety of navigating new fatherhood. In order to break the cycle of trauma, to disinherit a legacy of lovelessness, the speaker searches frantically for a way to stop “slow-playing [his] own life.” In this collection, Wortley steps through the portal of the prose poem again and again, ready to face the unknown that awaits on the other side.

Shared Blood, the transfused and transforming new book by Luke Wortley, might just be William Wordsworth’s and Russell Edson’s sage and sanguine, Romantic and Expressionistic love child. The prose poems, a whole brooding passel of children being fathers to men, are engorged with gorgeous grotesqueries and all the tense tenses of time being too much with us. They whisper and whistle, sing and scat hemostatic hymns that suture and staunch the ruptured bleeding heartbreaks of all those hearts leaping to all those tympanic and tragic ups, all those known unknowns now known.

Luke Wortley's Shared Blood is a cohesive and connected collection of prose poems that see-saw between becoming a father while dealing with an estranged father of your own. Blending dream logic with the achingly real, Shared Blood presents Midwestern family life with a surrealist tilt of reality where everything is slightly sideways. In a world where staircases are made of hands and milk pours out of eyes, this is a book of lips and teeth and bones and bourbon. Ghosts and confessions and love and grief. Gutting, heart-wrenching paragraphs packed with absence. A city in a stomach, a sunflower sprouting out of a phone.

Meet the Author

Luke is originally from Simpsonville, KY, and his beloved Bluegrass State features prominently in his work.

He has a BA in Spanish from Wright State University and an MFA from Butler University, where he was the former fiction editor of Booth: A Journal. After a few years in high schools as a graduate assistant, volunteer, and ultimately a Spanish teacher, he began working for a population and public health not-for-profit as a grant writer and a program director for community outreach among under-served populations. Luke has also been an adjunct professor at Butler University teaching Latin American history and First Year Seminar.  He writes short fiction, flash variants, and prose poetry.

He lives in Indianapolis with his partner, children, dog, and cats.

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