One of our leading American practitioners of poetic form and liberating constraint, Randall Mann has confronted what it means to identify as multiracial and queer in urban America for thirty years. Deal: New and Selected Poems harnesses five previous volumes and includes economical yet expansive new works rooted in an age of Wi-Fi, apps, and chat notifications. His newest poems, written in concise, contemporary lines, move us word by word, until we arrive at a stark reality.
Unafraid of that nexus between politics, syntax, and the contradictions of the colloquial, Mann’s poetry refuses “token liberation” and reminds us that life is “a cold exercise in looking back”—to disco and fetish, to a shared gay history, to his childhood Florida or his beloved San Francisco. Whether writing a sestina in the voice of the mortician of the murderer of Harvey Milk, or a deeply moving pantoum elegizing bullied gay adolescents who committed suicide, formal invention for Mann remains intensely personal. This collection—erotic, mournful, and often satirical—characteristically undermines, even as it enlarges, a use of language that continues to fail us.
Timestamped by surprise and exhaustion, and filled with the everyday indignities of being alive, Deal: New and Selected Poems affirms Randall Mann, in the words of Garth Greenwell, as “among our finest, most skillful poets of love and ruin.”
“Mann’s poetic output for the past two decades has proven consistently provocative and rewarding, and this collection provides an excellent overview of the work of an exceedingly fine poet.” —Diego Báez, Booklist, starred review
“Few American poets have written so faultlessly in pantoums, villanelles, sestinas, or page-spanning palindromes; even fewer were thirtysomethings debuting in the early 2000s. Emboldened by his guiding influence, Thom Gunn, the young Mann applied traditional forms to novel (but fittingly formalized) subjects: the patterns and poses of gay sociality, ‘hanky code’ and hookup culture, haute couture and exquisite smut. Deal: New and Selected Poems chronicles how Mann progressed from this early work to his most distinctive poems—a paradoxical process, equal parts unbuttoning and self-restraint. Book by book, Mann loosens up, fostering a comfortable distance through persona and caricature, exchanging the autobiography of Randall Mann for ironic portraiture of one randy man.”—Christopher Spaide, Harriet Books at the Poetry Foundation
“It’s an event: Randall Mann’s work is now gathered in Deal: New and Selected, a volume of poems as rich as they are chiseled. . . . His poems have a pulsing beauty, sometimes driving, sometimes graceful with the poised supple rigidity of a ballet dancer.”—Jesse Nathan, McSweeney’s
“Deal works equally well as a retrospective or an introduction to Mann’s work, where in the table of contents alone, poem titles accrue and cohere across time, as full of repetition and turns as a Randall Mann poem. . . . Mann is a poet of both place and displacement, but perhaps more accurately, he is a poet of landscape—of physical landscapes, but also cultural ones: queer life, the world of poetry, and language itself.”—Morgan English, On the Seawall
“While Deal continues Mann’s explorations of love, desire, identity, and the complexities of queer experience—hallmarks of his poetic repertoire, it is his meticulous attention to detail and command of poetic form that truly distinguishes his work in this collection. Mann’s verses resonate with emotional depth and intellectual acuity, carrying a weight that leaves a lasting impact on the reader.”—Zyzzyva
“As Mann has developed, his poems have grown increasingly svelte, to the degree that the reader of Deal—which fronts the new work—will encounter ballads whittled down to dimeter, threads of lyric a single syllable wide. It’s a narrow world, but Mann pushes it, virtuosically, in any number of directions. . . . Reading through the achievement of Deal, one can’t help but be struck by the many poems addressed to queer poets, from D.A. Powell to David Trinidad, and by the queer icons celebrated and mourned: Rock Hudson, Leo and Lance. The book, a crosscut of one poet’s history, offers itself as also a web of horizontal affiliation and care, in which influence—erotic, poetic—moves slantwise and unpredictably. It’s a sexy club, and we’re invited.”—Noah Warren, Adroit
“Mann has been quietly, movingly adding poem after memorable poem to the queer canon for three decades; anyone who cares about poetry should read Deal.”—The Cortland Review