A unique American voice enters poetry here, emerging from monkey grass and moon, from the ditch between father (or Father) and son (or Son). It is crisp, laconic, parodic, mysterious. It blesses the diesel and the mud-flap sinner. Maybe it is Tom Sawyer's dark sexy side.
"Former Poet Laureate, Philip Levine once said we write what we are given. Just as Levine was given industrial Detroit and James Wright was given rural Ohio, Ray McManus was given an American South where 'Every day is the bottom of a bucket. Every day is slide guitar,' where 'blistered hands, hearts, and tongues, give way to callus, the need to alter, to repair.' What Ray McManus has given us in return is Punch.: a tough, tenderhearted, phenomenal work about work. These are poems of lucid witness. Let us give thanks."
"'Addition is easy,' McManus writes, and he means money in a day-worker's pocket, a lonesome man meeting his lover in an empty parking lot, the handful of bent nails a carpenter can't use, he means the grease and gears and rust and sweat and spit of a working-class life. This is a collection of poems written in the spirit of Levine's What Work Is, whose song is all hard knocks and hard-won knowledge. Its sections are named after blue-collar works shifts, which is fitting--as Punch does the important work of honoring first shifts, swing shifts, graveyard shifts, and hours and days off between them."
Here is, in the poetry of Ray McManus, an unabashed sense of place, a fully realized belief in the poetic possibilities in the rural South Carolina landscape which, in his hands, eschews the cliché of country quaintness, for a twenty-first century toughness of existence--declining farms, disillusionment, and spiritual disquiet. Yet, curiously, McManus' vision is tempered by his complete belief in the healing of poetry, the grace of language and the manner in which this art can achieve a sublime transformation of the human experience.