On Our Shelves Now
From “a writer of breathtaking honesty” (David Ulin, LA Times), gorgeous new poems that are satirical, open-hearted, and unrepentantly queer.
In his poetry, “at once boisterous and lubed, anxious and ambivalent” (Kenyon Review), Randall Mann has always had his finger on the pulse of modern life. In his liminal new book of poetry, a gay, multiracial (“they called me yellow in Lexington”) speaker exists in the rift between the “fluorescent rot” of childhood and the “action; / transaction” of a sex-app midlife. The author of Straight Razor and Proprietary, Mann has long been admired for merging raw subject matter with formal ease. A Better Life shows him at the height of his gifts, in the clipped, haunting truth of its rhymes and rhythms.
About the Author
Randall Mann is the author of Complaint in the Garden (2004), which won the Kenyon Review Prize in Poetry; Breakfast with Thom Gunn (2009), finalist for the Lambda Literary Award for Gay Poetry and the California Book Award; Straight Razor (2013), finalist for the Lambda Literary Award; and Proprietary (2017) a finalist for the Northern California Book Award and Lambda Literary Award. He is also the author of a book of criticism, The Illusion of Intimacy: On Poetry (2019), as well as co-author of the textbook Writing Poems (2007). He lives in San Francisco.
A Better Life is a beautiful book of history taken down to the scale of one.
— Jericho Brown
Sexually witty and existentially hilarious, A Better Life is also deeply elegiac with a rigor—a commitment to the music of the line—that astonishes. Mann chronicles and contributes to a queer history that continues to be all too easily forgotten.
— Chen Chen
From “Mickey Mouse” Florida to Anita Bryant’s 1978 San Francisco, poems
like “Fifty Years After Stonewall” evoke the changes: “You girl me/ in
the virtual/ hallway,/ like a friend / A lover./ Clever/ as this phone.”
Easy yet startling rhymes propel short lines forward, some one or two
words each, while other poems use longer lines and repetitive
forms—sestina and pantoum, or loose versions of such—to grapple with
obsession, humiliation, and pain.
— Publishers Weekly
Mann uses his own history to interrogate the experience of American life
beyond the cis, white, heteronormative bubble, and he imbues his
questions with humor and rhythm.
— Foreword Reviews
One of April’s Most Anticipated LGBTQ Books
— Lambda Literary
A Kenyon Review and multitime Lambda Literary honoree, Randall Mann energetically explores a gay, multiracial identity in A Better Life.
— Library Journal
During this current pandemic, Randall
Mann conjures the ghost of the last one, thereby drawing parallels
between the two. Like in the mirroring and repetitive lines of his
clever pantoums and palindrome poems, he seems to say that the more
things change, the more they stay the same.