When to Ask for Rain (Spartan Press, 2021)
When to Ask for Rain is Sheldon's third full-length poetry collection, an entirely new series of poems centering in part on his time living in Louisiana--the charms, quirks, and remarkable individuals and situations that define the Pelican State. Rain also delves into rivers as location and myth, anchoring the reader in very specific places--the lives of people and animals, and in nature and our role within and around it.
"Sometimes we live in a worn down, worn out side of town, but even there, there is beauty: the beauty of trash cans and alley cats and trees that bloom seemingly without reason. And the people we meet, they’re the right kind: full of intelligence, full of heart. You can find all of this and more in Tyler’s new book, one that comes to us with a new voice, from Baton Rouge—a Kansan gone to live in the tough-shouldered, original land of jazz."
Poet Laureate of Kansas, 2017-2019
Author of More than Words
“These sharp-focused vignettes and portraits of people and places slow us into moments that upend, delight, and sometimes alarm us, as Sheldon proposes that ‘learning is often like instant photography where we all must be shaken awake.’ The careful craft of these poems carries the reader into rain-drenched Louisiana streets ‘full of good luck and trouble,’ and upstream to muddy midwestern rivers alive with hidden fossils and finds. This brilliant, alluvial collection explores the ways we make communion, the ways we trace ourselves back towards a source, the way our waters combine, become one story brimming with legends, ancient arrowheads, and the one that got away.”
Author of Save Your Own Life: Kansas Stories
“In Tyler Robert Sheldon’s When to Ask for Rain, water is ‘the memory vault of the world’—a gorgeous, volatile thread that runs throughout this luminous new collection. The natural world vaults to life in cinematic poems, where a tree ‘breaks its arms into the next-door yard’ and an oyster transforms into a ‘little fortress like a prayer.’ Sheldon’s poems reveal the startling, awe-inspiring power of water, from the ‘static sparks’ of tiny fish to experiences kayaking on a river that bucks its riders and ‘shakes its long mane.’ With exquisite and reverent attention to detail, Sheldon reveals the small rescues of our everyday lives and the miracle of nature that is both violent and beautiful.”
Author of The New Nudity
“In this wonderfully watery poetry collection, Tyler Robert Sheldon looks and listens with sincerity. Whether as a newcomer to the Deep South, a teacher, or a seeker of artifacts, Sheldon interrogates the liminal spaces where meaning can be found, and his readers are the wiser for the discoveries shared in these finely wrought poems.”
Author of Sympathetic Magic
“Rain and the river are central in this stunning book of poems by Tyler Robert Sheldon. His writing is clean, clear, and as accessible as Jane Kenyon’s and Mary Oliver’s, but beneath the surface of these poems runs a vein of pure linguistic gold. There are no slack moments in this book. Each piece surprises and satisfies with brilliant images and word choices. After a night on the sandbar, we hear ‘...the hum of dark water, the sizzle of stars.’ Beautiful language. So simple. So enjoyable. This writer knows the river ‘...bucks under the weight of its rider.’ That (the river) ‘At night . . . shakes its long mane.’ Often, we are surprised with such beauty. After dinner ‘...lights in the restaurant are warm as midafternoon sun. You are back in the world, and all the world is pleased,’ as will be the readers of this superb and engrossing collection.”
Author of Why Dance? and Dark Guitar
“In his new collection When to Ask for Rain, Tyler Robert Sheldon writes about the common things in his life with a poet’s eye. He weaves this subtle yet powerful collection together by taking us on a journey into his classroom, through Louisiana, and by providing vivid snapshots of floating and camping on the river. This poetry is not in-your-face, but it is almost something that we should already know, and is relayed to the reader in a gentle voice and tone. When to Ask for Rain is a refreshing new collection of poetry that when you read for the second and third time you will discover what you may have forgotten.”
Author of All Around Cowboy