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Grace in the Dirt: Poems, Songs, and Other Reflections on Life
Cory Kruse, author
From Cory Kruse, author of the critically acclaimed A Dream of Darkness, comes an incisive collection that will delight, inspire, devastate, and uplift you. Told in spare, accessible entries, Grace in the Dirt is a lyrical memoir that delves into life’s ever-changing seasons, leveraging the author’s own history to explore the complex, and often contradictory, nature of the modern human experience. Specifically, Kruse covers an expansive breadth of deeply personal topics, things such as love and heartbreak, grief and despair. He recounts moments of hope, and crises of faith; he confesses family drama, personal weaknesses, and his own culpability in the deterioration of dreams. Throughout, he also shares euphoric stories of triumph and overcoming, of crushes and first loves, all while looking toward the future with bright, belief-filled eyes. And, among it all, he offers existential reflections on the fragility—and inanity—of this strange, wonderful thing we call life. Across these pages, then, readers will encounter recollections of grace and levity, failure and sorrow. They’ll discover truths hard won as well as witness the enduring legacy of hope—all of which will remind them that, no matter what season they’re in, they’re not alone. Relatable, honest, and exceedingly human, Grace in the Dirt is a diary and a roadmap and a balm—one that will, upon reading, feel like coming home.
Kruse’s debut book of poetry focuses on grand themes of love, loss, and faith. His sweeping ideas are many, caught up with what “complex, wonderful, strange creatures” people are, but the structure of the book is clean and clear, establishing a strong flow from poem to poem and topic to topic. The verse, too, is inviting, as Kruse offers beautiful direct reflections on love, loss, despair, and hope in straightforward language: “If this is ‘life abundant’ / I want a return on my share. He discusses his mental health, particularly depression and disordered eating, in a manner that will strike a chord with many readers and help others better understand the complexities of pain caused by strained mental health.

Kruse employs a variety of poem structures—narrative format, rhyming, short observations and pleas (“​​Lord, / Remind me to read the pages / Before the ink fades away.” reads “Primary Sources” in its entirety), and repeating formats—which make the collection feel fleet despite its off-putting length of nearly 700 pages of mostly brief poems. As a self-proclaimed Christian, his poems on faith draw from the tone of the Psalms (“Melt my heart / Revive this soul / God of love, I need a miracle”) or Lamentations, which inspires “The Book of (American) Lamentations.” Many poems reach beyond his belief system, pose urgent questions (“Why is [it] that human beings, during times of crisis, / Can accomplish incredible feats, / And yet / We waste away during peace?”) or express pained doubts.

His style tends toward the melodic and the autobiographical, as Kruse digs into his fears, trials, successes, and longings. Love interests, family, and friends are recurring characters, as is God, who alternates between Kruse’s subject and the audience the poet is addressing. Overall, Grace in the Dirt reveals a deep sense of longing for connection. Kruse notes that he writes for the sake of catharsis, but readers eager for the musings of a believer in troubled times will likely find some connection of their own.

Takeaway: This poetry debut frankly considers faith, doubt, despair, and hope in clear, inviting verse.

Great for fans of: Edgar Holmes’ Her Favorite Color Was Yellow, Ted Kooser.

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: A-
Editing: B
Marketing copy: A