Snakebit Kudzu by Murray Shugars


“These are poems to be savored like good bourbon, like Bill Evans at the piano.  They are “hazel and amaranth, cypress and madwort.”  They’re the real deal.” —Norman Finkelstein


  • Kind: Perfectbound
  • Pages: 72
  • Language: English
  • Published: January, 2013
  • ISBN:  978-1-933675-90-9


The great poet Federico Garcia Lorca reminds us that “duende is a power and not a behavior,” and the poems in Murray Shugars’ Snakebit Kudzu are filled with that mysterious power Lorca speaks to. Here is a book of poems sung in dark, liquid registers pulled from the Michigan lakes of Shugars’ youth and emptied into the muddy waters of the great river running adjacent to his present home in Vicksburg. These poems know all the trees along the way, all the birds that fly in those skies around those trees, all the families that thrive in the rich, loamy soil of the soul. They know beavers and hawks, soldiers and fathers. And, they know fight and stink as insistently as they know small victories with their quickly fading perfumes. But first and foremost they know the heart of every single thing they turn the song toward. —Darrell Bourque

Murray Shugars’ poetry has accompanied me on three combat tours to Afghanistan. I’ve scribbled his words on latrine walls, where they met vitriolic graffiti common to such places. I’ve recited his words at military award ceremonies, to the bemusement of my Soldiers. I’ve read his words during sleepless nights when mortar rounds fell. His words ambush; they hit where I least expect. They speak to a truth that many have forgotten how to see. —Matthew Dudevoir (Captain, Infantry)

Murray Shugars may find his “lost apotheosis of absence” somewhere on the road between Michigan and Mississippi, or perhaps he may never find it at all.  It doesn’t matter: the record he leaves of his search are these charming, crafty poems, smartly probing into the everyday details of provincial life and turning magically into private rituals before our eyes.  Here is a poet who casually invites Garcia Lorca to stay with him in Vicksburg, who is on good terms with Lilith, and occasionally plays cards with God.  These are poems to be savored like good bourbon, like Bill Evans at the piano.  They are “hazel and amaranth, cypress and madwort.”  They’re the real deal. —Norman Finkelstein


Muttsy Hugbars Prays
in the Hot and Tired Afternoon

Through a six-pane window,
he watches the Mississippi River,
brown as milk in this morning’s coffee.

A bolt of sunlight
screams from the chrome bumper
of a ’71 Buick Electra
cruising the Vicksburg bridge to Louisiana.

Thirteen ladybugs
sun-baked on the windowsill
must be a sign from God.

For a week now they have swarmed,
leaving their bodies like confetti all over town.

The Garden Club spills a clutch of old ladies
who lift their dresses and tip-toe down the sidewalk.
He thinks of the knee-high, yellow grass
growing where his father’s barn once stood.

Sixteen black dots on the glazed shell of this ladybug.

He says two things to God—
You’re crazy and give
me another two years.


Murray Shugars grew up in Muskegon County, Michigan, but now lives in Vicksburg, Mississippi, with his wife, Sandra, and daughters, Samantha and Miranda. He is an associate professor of English at Alcorn State University. This is his second book of poems. The first, Songs My Mother Never Taught Me, appeared from Dos Madres Press in 2011.

Additional information

Weight 6 oz
Dimensions 9 × 6 × .25 in