The Philosophy of Unclean Things

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‘The dead bird is a kind of song.’ Thus, The Philosophy of Unclean Things confidently opens, setting a precise tone that is at once clear and inscrutable. In Rosemarie Dombrowski’s hands, forthright statement is not explained, but an occasion to launch a profound meditation on Lorca’s ‘act of loyalty,’ morality as ‘a dilemma,’ and the poet’s ancient, sacred search ‘for the words.’ To say that this poet herself follows Dante’s instructions to Calliope, ‘to strike a higher key,/to raise poetry from the dead,’ is to gesture toward the powerful spells these taut, smart poems cast. I celebrate this beautiful collection.

~Cynthia Hogue, author of eight poetry collections, including Revenance (Red Hen Press, 2014), Or Consequence (Red Hen Press, 2010), The Incognito Body (Red Hen Press, 2006), and Flux (New Issues Press 2002).


Dombrowski’s poems are at once bold, tender, and electric. Each one reaches out to the edge of experience, displaying its full, dazzling wingspan, and then builds even more energy as it folds back up and contracts. Guided by gorgeous prose and an unwavering curiosity, this collection showcases Dombrowski’s skills as a conservationist, a writer who is as interested in decay, disappearance, and repetition as she is in what makes a memory, or a moment, linger.

~Angie Dell, Assistant Director at the Piper Center for Creative Writing, Arizona State University


‘Everything touches everything,’ Rosemarie Dombrowski writes in The Philosophy of Unclean Things (Finishing Line Press). ‘Inanimate objects are learning what it means to make contact.’ In her latest collection of poetry, the Arizona State University lecturer and founder of Rinky Dink Press demonstrates her ability to make fiercely intimate contact – with readers and subjects – and why she was selected as Phoenix’s inaugural poet laureate in 2016. Meditating on universal themes like love, death and memory along with personal obsessions including environmental issues, fatalism, germaphobia, expatriation and etymology, Dombrowski finds the beauty in the overlooked, the catastrophic and the repulsive. ‘The dead bird is a kind of song,’ she writes in the opening poem. Not since Hitchcock have birds been this eerily captivating.

~Leah LeMoine, writer, editor, reviewer, Phoenix Magazine