cover image Bucolics


Maurice Manning, . . Harcourt, $23 (95pp) ISBN 978-0-15-101310-4

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.)