Praise for Vital Signs (2024):
Edward Ragg’s Vital Signs is a book of mourning, devotion, and creaturely alertness – 'Word turned flesh like a foot in dirt'. In delicate, precise rhythms, these poems vivify our sense of the body’s pulses – the beating of the heart, the vibrations of the breath. Ragg offers poetry as 'the body’s other dance'. Conjuring Celan’s 'worldbeat' the poet evokes Beijing snows and Durham skies, a visitation from a bat, the stamping of a bull’s foot. These are tender, capacious poems of vigil and remembrance and rededication – elegizing the poet’s father; addressing the beloved; limning a northern English landscape of disused mines and small villages; dreaming of 'Venice in a Beijing light'; moving among languages and inheritances.
Ragg is a poet of economy, freshness, and subtle musicality. His work is open to traveler’s tales and contemporary sculpture and manifests a complex historical consciousness; it bespeaks both a homing instinct and a cosmopolitan scope. We encounter a poet sounding out his vocation, 'listening to whole / bodies of poems echoing across / land and sea'. In Vital Signs, Ragg takes up the oldest tasks of the poet: to listen, to commemorate, to sing. 'Conscious the world’s breath / will one day scatter us' this poet registers 'the end of being echoing'.
~ Maureen N. McLane
With a deft yet emphatic touch, and by probing the things of life at a molecular level, the poems in Vital Signs continue to seek answers to the unanswerable, to the mysteries which surround and inhabit us. Here, in the conscious company of poet and poem, Edward Ragg explores the palette of the human condition, both at home in the familiar landscapes of family and away at the more foreign destinations and starting points of adulthood, until a kind of alchemy occurs that enables us – in body, pulse and breath – to savour what really matters, and to understand the intricacies of language, love and legacy. Ragg speaks of ‘The gamble we take every time / we try to say what we think’. In Vital Signs this gamble pays off as ‘certainly as the incoming tide’.
~ Claire Dyer
Praise for And Then the Rain Came (2022):
The manifestations and properties of water are excitingly explored in Edward Ragg’s new collection. Here are living poems where narrative and lyric work together to contemplate the energies implicit in water. The intriguing emphases laid upon the meanings of the word ‘present’ give a unique edge to the poems. Glass, tears, ice, rivers, wine, salinity, tides: all these elements are woven into the texture of this collection, where the illuminations and fluidities of language are beautifully captured.
– Penelope Shuttle
In his latest volume Edward Ragg weaves together two deft poetic sequences as a tribute to the power of water and the yearning water can evoke. From the shadows of Durham Cathedral to the Chinese water-town of Tongli, water in this collection is the long-promised rain, the speckled pattern on a window and dew evaporating to a new day. Framed within the challenges of navigating the world in the Covid era, this is a book to read, keep and cherish.
– David Tait
Praise for Exploring Rights (2020):
'Exploring Rights' could not be more timely but is not only that: this book has the sustaining resonance of true works of art. This is formidably intelligent yet also tender and approachable poetry—a poetry of care, linguistic brio, philosophical range, sharp assessment, and occasionally savage indignation.
Ragg modulates expertly between dispassionate attention and impassioned song. In Ragg—an Auden for our moment—delicate lyricism and discursive command co-exist. Exploring Rights registers our modernity and its human (and more-than-human) challenges, from Europe to China to the US to the Arctic. Ragg is a varied maker—a wizard of sampled documents, archival materials, legalese, spam, bots.
Ranging from Catullus to Himmler to our era of surveillance, Ragg’s many-tongued verse shimmers with a complex intellectual and sensual music. Ragg tests his art on the most difficult yet urgent question: how and whether to pursue ‘the luxury of the poem’ in these days.
– Maureen N. McLane
This is a complex and intently-reasoned collection which addresses historic and contemporary issues with unflinching attention. There is mordant wit, formidable energy, and a relish for analysis of various appetites. A prevailing and chilling concentration is sustained throughout. These poems witness the urgency of recording and understanding our past and present human darknesses.
– Penelope Shuttle
Praise for Holding Unfailing (2017):
Intriguing, supple poems that range across the world and across the landscapes of the mind.
– Sarah Howe
This collection has for its central focus scenes from contemporary China, observing with detachment and direct emotional intent those personal landscapes which fan out from Ragg’s experiences
of a country undergoing profound change.
Such landscapes and the burdening memories accompanying them create poems of concentrated philosophical energy. They search and question.
Ragg explores paths and places across a world shot through with colour. Yet he reins back from the expected celebratory note, in order to sift truth from falsehood, to travel from height to abyss.
This is a wide-ranging and thought-provoking collection.
– Penelope Shuttle
Praise for A Force That Takes (2013):
Perhaps the most important feature of Ragg’s poetry is the movement of strong enjambment that carries a feeling of thought taking place. Thoughts arrive by traversing space and overcoming the resistance constantly of the poem for a moment being suspended before acts of thinking determine a path. This is a very important aspect of contemporaneity despite the lack of pretentious avant-garde status.
I want to note the lovely intricacy of the idea of portraiture in ‘Arriving On the Scene’ and the great love poem ‘If Only’ that personalizes purpose and possibility.
– Charles Altieri
If you give this work the space it needs, and the time it deserves, it will reward you greatly […] Ragg allows the poet’s voice to carry its secrets, and sometimes, that is all we would want: ‘even / this most recent power / of which it is forbidden // to say more, that is poetry…’ (‘Valediction: Or What Is Forbidden’).
It is meticulous, crafted poetry.
– S. J. Holloway
There’s a beautiful tenderness in 'For the Love of':
and yet the woman I love,
her Chinese hair now bending
under the cooker hood
has made me forget winter,
the month of May, the willow
trees bending the water’s way.
Edward Ragg manages to combine the philosophical with personal observations without becoming didactic by a careful choice of words aimed at engaging the reader.
His is an assured, undramatic voice that allows his poems to speak for themselves.
– Emma Lee