Reviews for Bucolics : Poems

Booklist Reviews 2007 March #2
/*Starred Review*/ Fortunately, some boys resist being taken out of the country and become genuine patriots, lovers and defenders of the land; Wendell Berry, for instance, and now Manning in this extraordinary book. A literary term, bucolics refers to poems about shepherds, who historically constituted the lowest class of rural society but gained thereby an aura of purity. The speaker of Manning's succession of untitled, unpunctuated short poems keeps livestock but also tills the land and raises food plants; call him a very small farmer. Manning's speaker is keenly aware and appreciative of the nature immediately around him, including his own humanity. Like that greatest of pastoral poets, David, he talks with the one he understands to be responsible for it all, calling him Boss rather than Lord, because, unlike David, he is never king of anything nor ever will be. It is enough for him to talk with--let's hazard the word, though Manning doesn't--God and to work out perplexities in divine conversation. He expresses himself very colloquially, and some may be put off by just how bumpkinish he sounds. But get beyond that to discover a book that may come to be ranked with the Psalms and Blake's Songs of Innocence. ((Reviewed March 15, 2007)) Copyright 2007 Booklist Reviews.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2007 March #3

In his third collection, Yale Younger Poets prize-winner Manning goes for a new twist on the traditional genre of pastoral poetry: he praises nature, but also engages in a postmodern conversation with a version of a higher power, which he calls "Boss." In 78 rolling, untitled, unpunctuated poems, which mostly keep to an iambic beat, Manning's curious, grateful and mischievous speaker spars with his unanswering deity, alternately singing praise ("...Boss a horse beside/ a tree it makes me happy"), reeling in doubt ("...if I/ could find the little ladder Boss/ that's leaning straight against the sky/ how many rungs would I have to climb"), teasing (" just/ can't get above your raising Boss") and railing against the silence that answer his outcries ("...Boss you hold/ me down you hold me back/ you push against me O/ I hope you're happy now"). The poems do get repetitive--Manning establishes his strategies at the outset and then uses them again and again--but the insistent rhythm is born of real enthusiasm. (Apr.)

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