My book Urbilly won the 2017 Main Street Rag Poetry Book Award. Get it here.

Urbilly? Think antic field guide to parts (un)known & exploited. Mountain / megacity mashups, rural / urban hullabaloo, New River / Gowanus cocktails. Backwoods & Brooklyn. Mountaintop removal & Edison bulbs, landfill & farm-to-table, Muriel Rukeyser & Big Daddy Kane, James Still & girders of steel. Think Urbilly as the anti-Hillbilly Elegy, as an autoethnography of the hipster-hillbilly.


“You have to hand it to poet Michael Dowdy: he has some chutzpah. The first poem in his debut collection Urbilly (‘The Urbilly’s Field Guide’) is a cento comprised of lines from ‘The Road,’ Muriel Rukeyser’s poem from her legendary and revered The Book of the Dead. It is a bold move for a young poet in a first book. Bolder still may be the second poem in the book, ‘Born on the Breath of a Sucker MC,’ which mashes up hip-hop and hillbilly popular culture, and hinges around the stunning juxtaposition of the ‘X’ of Spike Lee’s iconic Malcolm X shirt and the ‘X’ of the Confederate battle flag (also seen on a t-shirt), acknowledging the permeability between the present and the past, and between local (read ‘Appalachian’) and national cultures. This strong beginning promises an eye-opening ride through the next eighty pages, and Dowdy doesn’t disappoint.  –Doug Van Gundy, from his review of Urbilly at Kestrel.

Urbilly appears on the Year in Reading for 2017 at The Millions.

Urbilly is an astounding debut because Michael Dowdy understands our peril. His ability to layer so much, sometimes with humor, in such a small space creates a mountainous effect. A father’s love for his young daughter fuels a rage over planetary violence. Traces of urban and rural, spit and shame, rapacious fracking and mountaintop removal, always the personal and political—these poems are living membranes that we can see worlds through.” –Mauricio Kilwein Guevara, author of POEMA

“If ‘urbilly’ as a word is somewhat obviously constructed, Urbilly as the book-length conjunction Dowdy has crafted is surprisingly nuanced. This is writing about place that moves beyond stereotypes such as city or country, writing that is rooted but never staid. Dowdy gives us “Mountain as verb,” and we’re lucky to have such lively language carrying us between clear observations, and making its colorful mash-ups.” –Rose McLarney, author of The Always Broken Plates of Mountains

“How do we re-integrate a past we ran from into the emotional ecology of our present? The voice of these poems guides us into the prima materia of remembered earth and youth to work the answers out of the ground, the sounds of 80s radio, the voices of parents and grandparents. Where economics, social class, and environment are disembodied issues in the headlines, here, they are sinews. This poetry distills the gifts of a psyche shaped by a rural Virginia past, and gives us a long drink of wisdom and beauty.” –Maria Melendez Kelson, author of How Long She’ll Last in This World

“Part map, part soundtrack, part storytelling, and part asking ourselves why we’re taking this trip in the first place. With the Urbilly speaker as cartographer, Dowdy takes the reader through this space and selfhood between urban and rural, between what is cultivated and what is sacred.” –Lauren Rose Clark, from her review of Urbilly in Jasper Magazine

Read “Blast Fragments,” which originally appeared in Tinderbox Poetry Journal.

Read “The Dead Send Regrets,” which originally appeared in Cobalt Review.

Read other sample poems in drafthorse and Kestrel.