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Breakfast with Thom Gunn (Phoenix Poets) Paperback – April 1, 2009

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Product Details

  • Series: Phoenix Poets
  • Paperback: 80 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press (April 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226503445
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226503448
  • Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 6.7 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,747,434 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Concise, witty and perhaps surprisingly grim, this second collection from Mann (Complaint in the Garden) pays homage to the titular poet, the British-born, San Francisco–resident Thom Gunn (who died in 2004). Mann emulates Gunn's signature virtues: a wry, careful tone; tight rhymed and unrhymed forms; explicit delight in sex between men, and in the modern culture of gay liberation; and an appreciation for the Bay Area. Yet compared to his model, Mann sounds less in love with life, more attentive to death: I want lust/ as cold, precise and prescriptive/ as the en dash of a dead man, one poem concludes; another, set on Mann's birthday, declares, If life is ruin,/ then let it burn like Rome. Poems set in Florida, where Mann spent an unhappy youth, pose stark counterpoints to Mann's cityscapes. Arch verses about the poetry industry (A younger poet wrote to ask/ an older for a blurb) offset what seems most personal elsewhere. Mixing literary sophistication with a visceral self-distrust, even paraphrasing Catullus (wanting// again, a man I do not want), Mann makes his dislikes at least as vivid as his admirations. On the whole, the collection is memorable as homage, but surprisingly far from what Gunn himself once named The Passages of Joy. (Apr.)
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“With audacious wit and formal prowess equal to the master to whom he pays homage, Randall Mann has written a book both poignant and humorous, where one minute ‘we stand above it all’ and the next minute we are reading ‘the notes of the drowned.’ Mann invites us a into a ghastly metropolis, its emptiness and ruin nonetheless populated with remarkable sites of grace. If this were only the evacuated city, ‘the nothingness behind us/the nothingness ahead,’ the permanent red of Ilium scattered with fallen bodies, the feral world of nonchalant disease, rent boys and assassins, it would simply be another note of irretrievable loss in the parade of human history. But with purling fountains and lush gardens, Mann reveals the transitory but beguiling beauty that holds despair in abeyance, that reminds us of why desire propels us forward. ‘Soon we will be underground,’ he says, but for now we enjoy the cherries that dangle tantalizingly before us.”

(D. A. Powell 2008-06-13)

“Randall Mann’s second collection of poetry, Breakfast with Thom Gunn—aptly titled for its poetic inheritance of metrical clarity and its address of gay subculture—also uses moments of real social incident, transforming private history into odes to the afflicted. In this work, the many contradictions of desire touch the reader: politics, beauty, God, disease, love, art—all the world’s addictions—and it achieves an entertainment that is satisfying when harsh.”

(Miguel Murphy Rain Taxi Review of Books)

Finalist, Lambda Literary Award for Gay Poetry
(Lambda Literary Award)

"[The] bright, ironic surfaces both render bearable Mann's dark vision and somehow exacerbate it--an ambivalence wholly appropriate to such frank, pained poems."
(Benjamin S. Grossberg Antioch Review)

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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful By J. Wahlgren on February 26, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
With Randall Mann's poetry, you are almost instructed to be more observant. You are instructed to be the protagonist & observe the other people & things around. With that said, these poems are very polished & though simple, they achieve a deeper purpose of carrying the reader through the sunrise, sunset, shops, & marketplaces of a particular place. There are a few surprises in this book, showing the evolving Randall Mann with the poems "Orpheus at Cafe Flore" & "N" both of which are strong, pure & profane in the same serving. Mann seems to achieve this purity & profanity alike, showing his personality through these structures & forms. There are slant rhymes, subtle rhythmic changes & overall, there is a unified celebration of life & a continued "engine" (from the poem "N") of moving forward.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By H. F. Corbin TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 16, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I bought this slim volume of poems because the title BREAKFAST WITH THOM GUNN got my attention since I am a fan of Mr. Gunn and wondered what Mr. Mann had in mind with that title. From the poem (p. 36) it would seem that the two poets met: "I gush about his books." the poems capture gay life in both San Francisco and Florida. And to paraphrase Garrison Koeillor on Emily Dickinson, in many of them, just as you have settled into reading complacency, Mr. Mann takes your head off with one line. "Song" (p. 9) is a prime example. As in all good poetry, these poems cry out to be read again and again.

As you would expect, the specter of AIDS is a frequent topic. "Queen Christina" is a beautifully poignant example: " To celebrate his final Pride, in June,/my friend, lymphatic, thin, and in distress,/managed to dress in drag. He shot the moon." (p. 11) Or the poem "Syntax": "Those were the flannel days, after/the Gainesville slayings, before the state/turned permanent red, AIDS still a reason/to cash n your 4019K0--in other words,/the early nineties." (p. 28)

The unforgettable poem that I cannot get out of my head and heart, however, is "The Mortician in San Francisco." (pp. 12-13) In Mr. Mann's notes at the end of the book, he dedicates this poem to Tom Halloran. A quick trip to Google confirmed what I thought: that Mr. Halloran is the person who prepared the body of Dan White for burial. Mr. Mann discusses how the poem came about, his revisions, the fact that he used the sestina form-- I admit that I read the poem three times before I noticed the repetition of the words. This is as good a poem as I have read in years and worth the price of the book. The irony is almost overwhelming.
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