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[Page 86]. Copyright 2010 Reed Business Information.
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.)[Page 46]. Copyright 2010 Reed Business Information.