Mark Spitzer

Spitzer - Cover - 9781681142319

Pushcart Prize 2016 Nominee

Glurk! A Hellbender Odyssey: ($20, 160pp, 6X9″, Softcover ISBN-13: 978-1-68114-231-9, EBSCO EBook ISBN:  978-1-68114-256-2, LCCN: 2016900991, 22 photographs, February 2016; Purchase on Amazon, Google Books or Barnes & Noble): is the first book-length, epic poem about Cryptobranchus alleganiensis, aka North America’s largest salamander. Through an investigative poetic lens of folklore, history, science and ecology, grotesque-advocate Mark Spitzer paints a four-part profile of an amazing phenomenon. This semi-monstrous mosaic of a living, breathing barometer of water quality and biodiversity is accomplished through a visionary voice that incorporates research, data, primary sources, and images that twist and torque like an actual bender (as the mythology goes) wending its way back to hell.

Mark Spitzer is the author of twenty-three books, including fish books, novels, memoirs, collections of poetry, and literary translation. He is currently an associate professor of creative writing at the University of Central Arkansas, and the Editor in Chief of the award-winning literary journal, Toad Suck Review ( For more information on Spitzer, take a look at

“A free-wheeling quirky glurky study and celebration of the Ozarks Hellbender. Spitzer offers a tour de force of comedy, tragedy, and word play as he relates the enthralling history and uncertain future of this unique and endangered creature. This book will impress biologists, poets, general readers, and anyone who cares about this ancient species and the health of this planet.” —Elder Mountain: Journal of Ozarks Studies (Missouri State University, 2018)

Glurk! is a book in which the poet’s eye (and ear) focuses on the paradox of this little-known salamander’s prehistoric strangeness and its more familiar, human properties: ‘because basically/ when you stare a bender in its tiny eye/ you end up focusing/ on its toes/ which, in essence/ is our connection/ with this aspect of the Wild.’ The poems range from scientific narratives to neologism-filled lyrics, connecting us to our own wildness, playing on our own youthful enthusiasms, humor and curiosity. Most importantly, the poet suggests that imagination begins the solution to even the most serious problem, even the threat of extinction.” —Lea Graham, author of This End of the World: Notes to Robert Kroetsch (Apt. 9 Press, 2016)

“As animal names go, ‘hellbender’ is a pretty good one. So if Mark Spitzer’s book-length poem about North America’s largest salamander (which can grow to more than 2 feet long) is titled Glurk! (Anaphora Literary Press) instead, it’s for reasons you’ll have to learn for yourself when the Arkansas-based author reads at East End Book Exchange. Tonight’s reading, backed by music made on the custom-made stringed instrument called The Electric Hellbender, also includes words from New York-based poet Lea Graham and local luminaries Che Elias, Karen Lillis, John Thomas Menesini and Don Wentworth.” –Pittsburgh City Paper, “Short List: July 27 – August 2, [2016]”

“I would recommend this book to anyone who is looking to learn about Hellbenders. As someone who switches between fiction and non-fiction books, it was refreshing to see the two mesh in this book. It is a quick read but it is full of information about the creatures and it also brings awareness to conservation efforts to save them. Glurk! A Hellbender Odyssey could be picked up by anyone, it appeals to non-fiction readers but the style makes it easily understandable to non-regular readers of the genre. 3/4*” —Taylor Razzani, Online Book Club

“Mark Spitzer really captured the hellbender story here in an informative and entertaining manner. The presentation is digestible (not technical) and creative… This is a great way to reach a broad audience and convey the plight of this amphibian.” —Dr. Donald Shepard, Amphibian Biologist, University of Louisiana, Monroe

The first of a three-part interview with Spitzer; the part about Glurk! starts on minute 15 of this: CALS Podcast, September 9, 2016, and focuses on linguistics and environmentalism: KABF, Little Rock, Arkansas:

January 20, 2016 7:00pm: Tune in to 89.1 FM on KUAR’s radio program Arts & Letters, which will feature University of Central Arkansas writing professor, Mark Spitzer. This 29-minute episode “What the Hellbender Salamander!” produced for the NPR-member station highlights Spitzer’s newest literary eco-effort, Glurk!

October, 2017: PBS: Mark Spitzer talks about preservation, the hellbender and his poetry on “Exploring Arkansas October 2017”: for Mark check out minutes 14:30 to 18

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