Red Dirt Jesus

Ray McManus

Publication Date: Spring 2011
60 Pages
ISBN13:  978-1-934851-32-6
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Red Dirt Jesus is a triptych of harsh landscapes where a man reflects on what he has gained, what he is offering, and what he must lose. It begins with the relationship between father and son that delicately hinges on the tension between hills and ditches, between past and fiction, between throat and gut. Later the speaker is alone, trying on several narrative personas in order to chisel out an understanding of who he is as he moves away from the delicate and airborne. His story is one of dirt, dust, spit, and bone, and he finds solace in grit, knowing that things can only get worse if he lets them. In the end, McManus articulates the understated victory of giving in rather than giving up. As the speaker finds the distant acceptance of stone and rot, he realizes that the body breaks but the spirit doesn’t.

hunthspace=10About the Author, Ray McManus

Ray McManus is the author of two poetry collections: Driving through the country before you are born (winner of the South Carolina First Book Prize, University of South Carolina Press), and Left Behind (a winner of the South Carolina Poetry Initiative Chapbook Prize, Stepping Stones Press). His poetry has appeared in many journals such as Nimrod, The Los Angeles Review, The Asheville Poetry Review, Borderlands, and The Arkansas Review. Ray is an Assistant Professor of English in the Division of Arts and Letters at USC Sumter, where he teaches creative writing, Irish literature, and rhetoric and composition.


“ Here is, in the poetry of Ray McManus, an unabashed sense of place, a fully realized belief in the poetic possibilities in the rural South Carolina landscape which, in his hands, eschews the cliché of country quaintness, for a twenty-first century toughness of existence—declining farms, disillusionment, and spiritual disquiet. Yet, curiously, McManus’ vision is tempered by his complete belief in the healing of poetry, the grace of language and the manner in which this art can achieve a sublime transformation of the human experience. These are, simply put, striking poems of formal accomplishment and affirming musicality. ”
— Kwame Dawes, author of most recently Back of Mount Peace and Wheels

“ A unique American voice enters poetry here, emerging from monkey grass and moon, from the ditch between father (or Father) and son (or Son). It is crisp, laconic, parodic, mysterious. It blesses the diesel and the mud-flap sinner. Maybe it is Tom Sawyer's dark sexy side. Speaking of the cycles of life and death, it says “Before the end,/ everything is fiction.” It says, “Buzzards gotta eat too,/ same as a worm.” And it also promises that “everything unwilling/ to change will die, everything/ that changes dies only a little.”
— Alicia Ostriker, author of The Book of Seventy and No Heaven

“ Ray McManus is a son of the red clay country and he gives us that country vividly with all its hard work, pain, loss, and sharp-edged humor. These are truth-telling poems that remind us to pay attention: “to the crow on the fencepost. the fly on the ceiling; to sit on a porch and talk to the dead in lick the sky that falls on your lip...” Like the sons who learn to “hold their scythes steady,” Ray McManus observes the world with a steady eye. ”
— Ellen Bass, author of Mules of Love and The Human Line


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Sept24The Poets’ Follies Reading Series, sponsored by Marick Press and The Oakland University Writing Center, will feature the poetry of David Young, Todd Swift and Jason Storms at 6:30PM. The reading will be followed by a question and answer session.
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