Reviews in 200 Words

The Common Man by Maurice Manning

In Poetry on November 11, 2010 at 2:00 am

This is Mother Goose on moonshine–freaked out fables–passed down lessons, distorted and expanded the way all truly great stories are. These characters get fatter and crazier each time they’re told about. Plenty is overheard and passed around. Plenty is imagined. There’s silliness here, and fantasy: calculated play. But then, there’s also quite a bit of pain—quite a bit of failure. Manning gives lines that slam you up against a wall. Lines that make you ache for their truth. I know the terrible side of you / would burn it all if you could, this spot // of time outside of time, this place / of too much kindness for your kind. This cast of characters is tied up together–tangled, sometimes. These people know what counts; they’re simple and complicated at once–connected to the land. The dialect here is just right: hear these people clip one another–hear them get tickled and hear them mourn. Sad stories in funny clothes. Mostly, this is honest, raw vulnerability—the thing we have in common. Oh, yes, / there’s sorrow here, 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. 

Micah Ling


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