The Scarecrow Alibis (Paperback)

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When “the scarecrow” first came to him in 2011, Denver Butson was in a new, unfamiliar writing space—the roof of his walk-up apartment building in Brooklyn. Temporarily escaping a tiny apartment with a child waking, the poet would take his notebook, pens, and coffee to the roof before the day would erupt. The scarecrow took shape then (sometimes coincidentally with then-unknown, future superhero Chadwick Boseman, who was dating a neighbor in the building, working out on the other side of that same roof). Eleven years and hundreds of poems later, the first collection of these scarecrow poems is here.

Throughout The Scarecrow Alibis, the first poem Butson wrote on that roof unfolds – the scarecrow dreams of climbing off his stake, unearthing the farmer’s old motorcycle, and riding it across the fields he has stood watch over his whole “life.” Though stuffed with straw, the scarecrow seems to be more than a figment of the poet’s imagination. He longs for something – an “elsewhere” he has only heard about. And always, that cobwebbed motorcycle beckons, tempting the scarecrow to ride away, to leave his longing to one day touch or be touched by the farmer’s wife there at the farm. This incomplete, unreliable chronicle of the scarecrow’s inability to act becomes, according to poet Doug Ramspeck, “a psalm for the dispossessed. “

About the Author

Denver Butson’s fifth book of poetry, The Scarecrow Alibis won the 2022 Vern Rutsala Poetry Prize from Cloudbank Book and launched in October. Colum McCann said this about it: "The great Jim Harrison once said that poetry is what our souls would speak if we could teach our souls to speak. In this collection, Denver Butson takes up the mantle of Harrison and teaches our souls to speak. These are wonderful poems – sharp, transgressive, funny, alluring, and extraordinarily powerful. They knock our comfortable balance all to hell, and then they help stitch our imaginations back together again." In 2020, Butson won the William Matthews Poetry prize from The Asheville Poetry Review, judged by Ilya Kaminsky. Also in 2020, he wrote the afterword for Jim Harrison’s posthumous Collected Ghazals (Copper Canyon Press). A frequent collaborator with artists working in other media, Butson has worked extensively with visual artists Maria Mercedes Martinez and Dennis Dawson, photographer Cedric N. Chatterley, and musicians Mat Maneri, Marco Cappelli (and his Italian Surf Academy), Lucian Ban, and others. His own visual work and his musical collaborations have been seen in New York City galleries and performance spaces and in festivals in Italy. He has done voice overs for award-winning animations and with international musicians. Butson’s poems (which have been praised by the likes of WS Merwin, Jim Harrison, Zoe Ryder White, Tomaz Salumun, Thom Gunn, Forrest Gander, XJ Kennedy, and others) have appeared in dozens of literary journals (including Yale Review, The Ontario Review, ZYZZYVA, Tin House, Nuovi Argomenti, and Field), in anthologies (edited by the likes of Billy Collins, Agha Shahid Ali, and Garrison Keillor), on National Public Radio, and in The Library of Congress’s Poetry 180 Program, for which Collins (then US Poet Laureate) wrote: "Here is a poet who is wild, frenzied, and refreshingly mad. His imagination unlocks for us the cells of reason and sets us loose in a world of dizzying possibilities."

Praise For…

“Contemplative and often wickedly funny, the poems of The Scarecrow Alibis create a psalm for the dispossessed. By offering the scarecrow all our human longings and foibles, Butson, a darkly philosophical poet, asks us to face our own fears of being little more than sticks and old clothes stuffed with straw. But somehow, despite these haunted dreamscapes, we build our lives. Here is an ambitious book of abundant pleasures, saturated with loneliness and longing.”
Doug Ramspeck, The Book of Years

“What a terrific imagination! What verve! ‘‘the most common musical instrument in / dreams about scarecrows is the accordion/ despite all you have heard to the contrary, / scarecrows are not bitter about their lot in / life.’ Indeed. I love this work.”

Ilya Kaminsky, Dancing in Odessa

"In Denver Butson’s fascinating The Scarecrow Alibis, the scarecrow is both ephemeral and eternal, like all humans. He is an artist and a philosopher, but all his works are unspoken. He is made of straw and cast off clothes, and yet he has intense passions and longings, including his tacit relationship with the lonely wife of the farmer whose fields he surveys. He is a descendant of Yeats’ old man as scarecrow in “Sailing to Byzantium”: “a paltry thing, /A tattered coat upon a stick unless/Soul clap its hands and sing…” And this scarecrow is constantly singing in silence, sometimes a melancholy song, sometimes a joyful one. We are fortunate that Butson has allowed us to hear those songs."
Lawrence R. Smith, editor of Caliban

"The Scarecrow Alibis reads like a love letter to the blundering, persistently tender self. Denver Butson’s poems build an off-kilter world we accept without question: a world that is startlingly strange without drawing attention to its strangeness, a world full of whimsy of the most serious variety. Denver’s ability to carry a metaphor across a poem and across a series of poems is relentless and magnificent – the poems iterate and iterate until they break into a deeper truth, and then he takes that truth and does it again. These are poems of affection and estrangement, in which the interior world and the exterior world are equally lush. The Scarecrow Alibis manages to capture that uniquely human sensation of living among 'real' people, while not truly feeling real."
Zoë Ryder White, Hyperspace

"Given the frequency of scarecrow sightings, and the ever-rising number of scarecrow-and-human interactions (though mainly friendly, thus far), readers would be wise to heed the advice of Denver Butson’s The Scarecrow Alibis. As Thomas Aquinas did with Treatise on Angels, and Heinrich Kramer did with Malleus Maleficarum (The Hammer of Witches), Butson performs an inestimable public service. Keep this book beside your bed, along with rope, a blow torch, and an accordion."

John Bradley, Hotel Montparnasse: Letters to Cesar Vallejo

“The great Jim Harrison once said that poetry is that which he would give his soul if he could teach his soul to speak. In this collection, Denver Butson takes up the mantle of Harrison and teaches our souls to speak. These are wonderful poems -- sharp, transgressive, funny, alluring and extraordinarily powerful. They knock our comfortable balance all to hell, and then they help stitch our imaginations back together again.”

Colum McCann, Let the Great World Spin

Product Details
ISBN: 9780984999125
Publisher: Cloudbank Books
Publication Date: October 11th, 2022
Pages: 104