VELVET RODEO by Kelly McQuain is the recent winner of the Bloom Chapbook Prize, judged by poet C. Dale Young who wrote of it: “‘The tongue I try to master / is a sticky one, forked and full of tricks,’ is the opening of a poem in Velvet Rodeo, and it becomes a point of return for the collection. These poems understand that to tell the truth, one must lie, play tricks, and even dare to say the unbelievable. Careful and exacting, these poems exact a price from a reader. They linger with you long after you have finished reading them.”

is now available for $8
from the fine folks at BLOOM.
Copies are limited. Order at:

“…What if you never meet
the person you are meant to be? The future
is a cocked gun –pretty, but peacock mean–
and you are devil’s paintbrush,
a blister of orange-red and velvet need…”

–from the poem “Scrape the Velvet from Your Antlers”, originally published in Kestrel.
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What Other Reviewers Are Saying about VELVET RODEO

“Sound, and the love of it, emanate from every line in this luscious chapbook, with a musicality and distinct voice that show both a maturity and staying power. These poems demand to be read over and over again, like songs that gain more meaning with each listen.” –Kris Bigalk, author of Repeat the Flesh in Numbers. Philly Review of Books blog, August 2014. http://phillybooksblog.wordpress.com/2014/09/05/no-bull-a-review-of-velvet-rodeo-bloom-2014-a-chapbook-by-kelly-mcquain/

“Since 2010, Bloom, the first-rate national LGBT literary magazine has been holding competitions to find the community’s most exceptional writers of poetry and prose. Velvet Rodeo, the chapbook by last year’s poetry winner, Kelly McQuain, is a gem, worthy of attention even from readers who typically don’t read poetry (Bloom Books. $8. www.bloomliteraryjournal.org). Born in rural West Virginia, McQuain, now in his 40s and based in Philadelphia, beautifully reflects on the tension between the beloved natural landscape of his childhood and his need to escape those environs to express his own sexual nature in the standout opening piece, “Scrape the Velvet from Your Antlers,” His cub scout troop’s day dressing up as Native Americans evolves into a personal experiment in drag amid the clever wordplay of “Brave.” The equally witty “Uncle” finds an adult McQuain fantasizing about a son when his estranged infertile married older brother asks if he’d be willing to make a sperm donation. These are indelibly tender snapshots of a gay life that straddles environments and eras.” –Jim Gladstone, “Travel Bound”, Passport Magazine, August 2014.

“Between a single dawn and dusk, I shadowed a speaker through adolescence and into adulthood, from young summers in West Virginia to liquored confessions in Mexico. Kelly McQuain’s Velvet Rodeo is a rare chapbook that spans such lengths—though, that is one of poetry’s potentials: every verse paragraph a vignette. And yet while McQuain’s poems are distinctively narrative, they are rife with imagery; from nature to anatomy, McQuain’s imagery evokes experience, from discovering one’s body to discovering parental fallibility. It is fitting then that Velvet Rodeo’s opening poem, “Scrape the Velvet from Your Antlers,” begins spiraling outward, from pastoral aesthetics to something more existential….” — Matthew Girolami, Cleaver Magazine, July 2014. More at http://www.cleavermagazine.com/velvet-rodeo-by-kelly-mcquain-reviewed-by-matthew-girolami/

“Coming of age, finding identity, negotiating family relationships; these themes are all here, explored through Kelly McQuain’s characteristic precise description and formal attentiveness…. [T]he collection is thoughtful and deep. The lyrical and narrative modes are wonderfully blended….” —Poems for the Writing, July 2014. More at http://poemsforthewriting.com/2014/07/13/velvet-rodeo-by-kelly-mcquain/

“Velvet Rodeo, by Philadelphia poet Kelly McQuain is clearly a winner. These are well-crafted poems with surprises, narrative twists, and a rich use of vocabulary. Several themes predominate in McQuain’s work. The most important is his origins: growing up in rural West Virginia…. [T]he strongest of all the poems in the collection, called “Creation Myth”… describes the early lives of both his father and mother. Extraordinary philosophical questions are thrown at the image of the mother: ‘How to separate the cosmic egg? Separate the raw from the cooked?’ Like his son, the father in the poem was also an artist, if on the fringes of the creative world. In an almost rhythmical ending the poet recognizes the enormous debt to his parents, knowing he can never repay them.”– Dan Evans, “Gay Presses: Alive and Thriving”, The Fire Island Tide, May 23, 2014.

“The book opens strongly with the accomplished poem, ‘Scrape the Velvet from Your Antlers’. The poet asks, “What if you never meet/the person you are meant to be?” This begins the book’s motif of identity… This is a strong chapbook from a sensitive individual who is finding his way in the poetry world.” –Mark Frazier, Mayday Magazine

Velvet Rodeo “engender[s] camaraderie among individuals who love lauding language and its possibilities.” — Joseph Myers, “Poetic License” Profile/Interview, South Philly Review, June 5, 2014.

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KELLY McQUAIN grew up surrounded by the mountains of West Virginia’s Monongahela National Forest. His poems have appeared in The Pinch, Painted Bride Quarterly, Philadelphia Stories, Assaracus, Redivider, MEAD, Paper Nautilus, and Kestrel, as well as in such anthologies as The Queer South, Out of Sequence: The Sonnets Remixed, Rabbit Ears: TV Poems, Between: New Gay Poetry and Drawn to Marvel: Poems from the Comic Books. His prose has appeared in such anthologies as Skin & Ink, Best American Erotica, Men on Men and in numerous journals. He holds graduate degrees from the University of New Orleans and Temple University, and has twice received fellowships from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. He has been a Lambda Literary Fellow and a Tennessee Williams Scholar at the Sewanee Writers’ Conference. From time to time, he writes essays and reviews books for The Philadelphia Inquirer and other publications. He also occasionally designs book covers, illustrates comics, or draws for the sheer pleasure of it. These days, he makes his home in the Italian Market area of Philadelphia, where he works as an English professor. Find him at http://www.kellymcquain.wordpress.com.


7 thoughts on “Order VELVET RODEO: Poems

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