Reviews for Common Man

Booklist Reviews 2010 April #1
This book seems like a companion piece to the sharp and colorful Bucolics (2007), in which a small farmer pungently argues with God (though he's too modern to call him that; he calls him Boss). In this book, despite the singularity the title implies, many common men, rural and Kentuckian, speak meaningfully in unrhymed couplets of, basically, four or five feet, primarily if often very casually iambic. Fully acknowledging listeners ("you," they say, and they mean us), they couldn't sound more natural. First man up relates a boyhood experience of "Moonshine" that "might as well be blood, at least / the bonds that come with blood." The next tells about his occasional visits to two old brothers, one "fatter than / a tick with lies and sassy tales," the other perpetually mute. A prayer, extended metaphors, Bible variations, stories Chaucer could have told, a little preachin', personal recollections, and reflections that aren't exactly clear but certainly are worth having heard all crop up before the end. It's obvious again that Manning is one of America's invaluable poets. Copyright 2010 Booklist Reviews.

Library Journal Reviews 2010 March #1

Manning's latest book (after Bucolics) offers multilayered poems that muse on life and death in a manner reminiscent of Louise Glück's The Wild Iris. But Manning, a Yale Younger Poets Series winner for Lawrence Booth's Book of Visions, writes in a down-home, head-to-the-Kentucky-hills tone--unlike Glück, whose language captures the "high church" voices that one might find in a flower garden. Both poets add ironic twists to their lines--sometimes even humor--and they inject spiritual undertones into their work, with some of their poems almost prayers. Manning's "A Prayer to God My God in a Time of Desolation" is a good example. The poem itself seems anything but reverent since the narrator addresses God in a sacrilegious tone as he is working in the field and musing on his dislike for people and his love for animals: "Have I told you you're a weirdo? You/ should have made me a horse and been done with it…." As the poem ends, though, it takes on a tone of existential angst that seems just right. VERDICT Manning's poems possess a freshness that, although a little disconcerting, offers its own highly recommended garden of earthly delights.--Diane Scharper, Towson Univ., MD

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2010 February #4

This fourth book by Yale Younger Poet's Prize-winner Manning is, like his previous books, a unified sequence, though this one takes an autobiographical turn, recounting the Kentucky of the poet's childhood, evoking "the first time I heard the story// I was born to tell, the first I knew/ that I was in the story, too." The poems are friendly, if also full of sadness, as in "Old Negro Spiritual," which recalls a lost friend, "his voice, the way/ it sounded, a song inside a sound;// it hurt to hear it then, and it hurts/ that I can't hear it anymore." While recalling his private world, Manning also reaches out to what everyone has in common: "not a day goes by/ that isn't stabbed with common sorrow,// with death, regret, and loneliness,/ and some of us get a bigger portion// of the little tragedies. That's not/ uncommon, though, now is it?" But there are happy memories too, or sad ones tinged with happiness, as in a story about a donkey named "Clyde." All set in couplets, the poems have a way of running together, but most readers will find themselves charmed by Manning's smart, companionable voice. (Apr.)

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