Burlesque Press, February 28, 2016
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“Dawn Manning’s Postcards from the Dead Letter Office takes the Japanese form of the tanka around the world. Tension persists in the short and long breaths of the form, as well as in the live ants pillaging the body of the dead cat, the specificity of place and the commonness of piano tunes, the moonlight found everywhere, even on laptop screens. Manning’s images are surprising and fresh, visiting all seasons, all new lives, and as many of the dead as possible. Each place these poems visit is enriched by detail and defined by absence, by ‘all we leave unsaid, all we can’t unsay’-wracked by everything forgotten or the refusal to speak, haunted by every word uttered, every missive sent to the Dead Letter Office.”
— Traci Brimhall
“Dawn Manning’s Postcards from the Dead Letter Office is a veritable almanac of the textures of this poet’s senses and sensibility. In spots and glimpses lifted from time, these poems (many of them richly informed by classic Japanese tanka, brief poems that treat nature, travel, and loss) lure us into the mind behind the poet’s keen eyes, whether she is scurrying across the Amazon jungle or sitting trapped at home during a blackout. From Puerto Peñasco to Beijing, Culloden Moor to Macchu Piccu, whether scrutinizing ‘repair manuals/ and doctor bills [that] interlock/ on the kitchen table,’ gazing at the ‘chisel sharp-edged light/ from soft landscapes,’ by Cézanne, or catching ‘suddenly a shadow/ of swooping swallows,’ these delicate poems first pause, quietly, then turn on the ‘chrysalis’ of the poet’s tongue to intimate revelations. I count no less than forty-seven creatures who appear – a ‘puddle of kittens,’ a beached whale, ‘twilight crickets,’ a ‘frowning Alpha’ capuchin, a ‘wild turkey entourage,’– as well as dozen of plants (from the ‘braille of edelweiss’ to ‘jacaranda limbs’) and scores of people (from ‘nuns chanting in the cloisters/ of Arequippa’ to Keith Richards). Indeed, if Dawn Manning’s poems really exemplify what’s to be found in the Dead Letter Office, someone quick! get me a job there, here where, on every page, ‘between us/ a tornado touches down.'”
— John Gery
“Dawn Manning uses the 1300-year-old Japanese form of the tanka to shed new light on modern Western culture. A tanka, she tells us, might resemble a haiku, but ‘a haiku with a person in it.’ Each poem is an encounter, a tiny moment of collision between a person–in Mexico, Italy, Scotland, or Philadelphia–and the sensual and aesthetic world around her. Like viewing a Van Gogh or a Gaugin at the Barnes Museum in Philly, these poems provide vision, context and history. These lighthearted musings–for the tanka should always be light–together form a concise, economical parody of the West–parody in the sense of pastiche, as Stein used the term–and at the end we see ourselves through different eyes.”
— Bill Lavender
“Dawn Manning’s poems don’t just contain Whitman’s ‘multitudes’— they distill multitudes in strange acts of alchemy. Manning’s use of the tanka form moves well beyond adaptation into transmutation. The body becomes language and Manning’s language is as ‘lean and savage’ as the ‘Spanish moss—/bromeliads,/and strangler vines’ in her poems. This is an engrossing and distinctive debut.”
— Shelley Puhak