Review by Karen Craigo at As It Ought To Be.
Review by Justin Evans at Name This Place.
Review by Susan Delaney Spear at Don’t Just Sit There.
This book is study in poetic contrasts, at once raw, gritty, slapstick, hedonistic and scatological in the vein of Bukowski and Kerouac, as well as intellectual, spiritual, humanistic, and broadly expansive in the mode of Dylan Thomas or Larry Levis. There is a Whitman-esque quality to it, a sort of 21st century barbaric yawp. I especially enjoy the narrative component, as even as these poems are full of lyrical language, they most often tell a story. But perhaps the best quality is the honesty. So little pretense, cant, or posturing; Tucker puts his heart on the table and pins it there with a knife. An auspicious debut from a great young American poet.
–Matt Bondurant, Author of The Third Translation , The Night Swimmer, and The Wettest County in the World.
Can eyeballing Steve Martin Kill a person? Is the baptismal font really for drowning little boys who just don’t cut it? Is the trapdoor spider important? Can a woman’s great ass save us? These deeply weird, dark, at-times-hilarious, war-torn poems, like a mule ride, are: “unpredictable, exhilarating, uncomfortable, and silly’ (I admit it—I giggled). And yet, when Kafka said, ‘A book must be an ice-axe to break the seas frozen inside our soul,’ he had Seth Tucker’s Mormon Boy in mind—for with electrified language, grit, and pathos, this stunning debut collection commands love of raw humanity, unhinged from superstition. I’m bemused with most “first books” as I usually assign three or four to my classes each year and find them slavishly derivative, stuffed to the gills with tweety birds, politically self-righteous or so clever they are trite. I am thrilled, then, to find this deeply weird and wild debut collection which (somehow) manages to marry raw war footage with Mormon-boy memories, imagination and raucous wit that may make you &*@#$ your pants. Buy it–if you suspect poetry is a festival for the dead and like surprises–“The Very Best Man in All The World,” alone, is a mule-ride that is worth the cover price.
–Jane Springer, Author of Dear, Blackbird, and Murder Ballads, and winner of the Whiting Award.
A young man goes to a desert war, somehow returns with body and mind intact, and begins to write poems about his experiences. Will they be raw, brutal, all but impossible to read? Actually, no. Set Tucker looks into the abyss, but it’s a ‘pretty abyss,’ as on of these poems says, because life rendered with feeling is always beautiful. Tucker embraces his subject but transcends it; a pleasure to read, these poems show poets how great poems are written.
–David Kirby, Author of The House on Boulevard Street (nominated for the National Book Award), and over twenty other books.
Seth Tucker takes you on a trip to the outer limits of our time—to Baghdad and back again, and what he sees will leave you stunned but amazed that a human being could be so resilient, so passionate, and so open to the beauty and terror of the world. Here is a true Romantic—as if Keats and Byron had ironed out their differences and decided to take off for parts unknown. This book is an avalanche of images—tender, terrifying, and rich as the landscapes they describe.
–Barbara Hamby, Author of All Night Lingo Tango, Lester Higata’s 20th Century, Babel, and winner of a Guggenheim Fellowship and many other major awards.
As a former paratrooper with the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division, Tucker writes viscerally about combat (a fellow soldier dies in “a splash of bone and brain”) and wistfully, wittily about love (see “Making Out in Cars with Bucket Seats and Other Tales of Woe”). As you can guess, I was especially drawn to the poems about the Iraq War. That conflict still clings to my skin like desert dust, and Tucker’s stanzas make it even harder to shake. You know what you’re in for right from the opening lines of the very first poem called “The Road to Baghdad” which, he writes, “Is less a road than a floral/collection of spongy and soft/bodies…” Like the work of Brian Turner before him, Tucker has urgent, vital things to tell us about war and we should all sit up and listen.
–David Abrams, author of Fobbitt
And what poetry. Whether writing about the devastation of war or a soggy day in Dublin or riffing on the film Being There, Tucker is plangent without being self-indulgent, deft without being glib. Speaking of the immolation of his younger self, through bad things he saw and did in the military, he manages to turn guilt and shame into an anthem.