by Jeff Mann
Jeff Mann is a defiant voice in Appalachian literature. His poems, provocative and beloved, are grounded in West Virginia's mountains, his adoration for the region's culture, and the frisson of passion between men. Redneck Bouquet, his new collection, has the poet seeking out sweet donuts and bringing home a lonely man, shucking flannels and boots. In another poem, Mann dwells on the discovery of the scent of someone else in a lover's moustache. These sumptuous verses reflect the commonplace and concupiscent joys of rural America.
"Every word of this title richly resonates throughout Mann's terrific collection. Redneck clichés are both celebrated and brought down a notch or two. And there are abundant bouquets of men and music, food and flowers. I can't remember when I've read poems that so delight the palate whether it's chow-chow with brown beans and cornbread to Clos du Bois or a fine Moselle with camembert. Mann is, as well, dependably honest in his portrayal of homoerotic love. These are seriously gay poems, yet poems deeply rooted in Appalachia. Would that more of the poems I read exhibit such orneriness-what a breath of fresh air are these marvelous and ornery poems!" - Marc Harshman, Poet Laureate of West Virginia, and author of Woman in Red Anorak