Selected Works

Books of Poetry
"sublime revelation...a triumph."
-Darrell Bourque
“Openness, depth, imagination and precision.”
–V.B. Price
“A passionate Lawrentian poet...He sings beautifully and the lion roars.”
–Gerald Stern
“Magical and uncommonly compassionate.”
–John Nichols

Because a Fire in Our Heads

Art by Rachel Lee Udall, Cover by Nancy Parsons

"BECAUSE A FIRE IN OUR HEADS is sublime revelation, a book of place poems set in 'this house whose walls we’ve never found.' Memory lives in this house, and love, and caverns of grief, as well as dislocation, and war, and death, and the terrible beauty of human passage. Jay Udall’s poems are lighted throughout by 'thick profusions' that might have 'startled the air in spring.' The book is a triumph." --Darrell Bourque, author of Where I Waited


"Jay Udall has has composed a book haunted by violence, killing, war, and nature’s own disasters, daring us not to look away, yet also offering at our most sunken depths ”a buoyancy from nowhere/​ lifting, some gravity pulling up.” Amid “skin, scale, fur/​ and feather,” through dirt and sky, although our species is “the kind who murder our own in schools and churches,” Udall teaches us to love and praise creation: “the living work, the thick and quick of it.” I am grateful for the precision and tenderness of this poet. --Alicia Ostriker, author of Waiting for the Light


"In Because a Fire in Our Heads, Jay Udall's poems again and again probe his unblinking gaze at both the beauty and terrors of the natural world. He insists that he and the reader face the violence of dreams and of everyday life as well as its joys, because each tells the tale of what it means to be alive. This is a stunning book with an amazing title poem. Read it." --Susan Terris, author of Ghost of Yesterday: New & Selected Poems


"These are poems that will stick in your memory, the images emerging at unexpected moments, triggered by the many common aspects of any fully lived life. Like the borrowed splendidly affective line from Yeats in the title of the book, they portend to the reader an ethereal experience, something, transforming in their readings. The poet alludes to the possible prodigious impact of literature in the sublime poem, "Reading Blind":

….I’m pouring through Shopenhauer,
Leviticus, Dickinson--ghosted thoughts,
hours, ages pouring through me, my body going
stiff and numb as some abstraction or the chair
in which it sits, eyes tracking the lines
as if one of these times I might see through
the words, the shapes of letter, through the ink
and pulp, inside the echoing orbits
of charged particles, into the womb
of speech—to be spoken—flesh
become word….

In his tribute poem to the late Seamus Heaney, 'For the Making,' we find his and most every poet’s goal and wish, to take 'the dark’s shape, shaping it/​into words to wake the world to itself/​the living work, the thick and quick of it.' Unique insights, music, and wisdom are found in these poems. A collection the reader will come back to again and again." --Dave Parsons, Final Judge, 2017 X.J. Kennedy Poetry Prize; 2011 Texas Poet Laureate and author of Reaching For Longer Water.