Winner of the Forward Prize for Best Collection
Writing you I give the death I take
I know I should feel wounded by your death
I write to you to make a wound write back
Shane McCrae fashions a world of endings and infinites in Cain Named the Animal. With cyclical, rhythmic lines that create and re-create images of our shared and specific pasts, McCrae's work moves into and through the wounds that we remember and “strains toward a vision of joy” (Will Brewbaker, Los Angeles Review of Books).
Cain Named the Animal expands upon the biblical, heavenly world that McCrae has been building throughout his previous collections; he writes of Eden, of the lost tribe that watched time enter the garden and God rehearse the world, and of the cartoon torments of hell. Yet for McCrae, these outer bounds of our universe are inseparable from the lives and deaths on Earth, from the mundanities and miracles of time passing and people growing up, growing old, and growing apart. As he writes, “God first thought time itself / Was flawed but time was God’s first mirror.”
"McCrae’s poems possess a self-reflective quality without being burdened by history. As in Beckett and Whitman, repetition generates a self-searching, hypnotic music. His poetry moves freely within the restricted syllabic lines, constructing a wild, vivid dreamworld . . . [Cain Named the Animal] confirms McCrae as one of the most erudite and inventive poets of our time, throwing punches at the English language and its hierarchical traditions."—Kit Fan, The Guardian
"What [McCrae] observes at the end of 'Worldful,' 'but what life does / Not have to be reduced to be imagined,' is true of any description or summary of the best of these lyrics. Praise is due for their craft, but even more so for their imaginative power."—Michael Autrey, Booklist