Dark poems struggling to reconcile a haunting loss and troubled present
Selected by Kate Daniels as the winner of the South Carolina Poetry Book Prize, Driving through the Country before You Are Born is the first collection of poetry from Ray McManus. The speaker in these poems searches for redemption and solace while navigating from a traumatic loss in the past to a present fraught with violence and self-destruction. The volume chronicles his attempt to glean some measure of forgiveness through acceptance of his own responsibly for his circumstances. The reader is called on to witness family stories without happy endings, landscapes on the verge of collapse, and prophetic visions of horrors yet to come. From these haunting visions, the only viable salvation is rooted in hope that, out of the ruins, there remains the possibility of a fresh beginning.
Ray McManus received his M.F.A. in poetry and his Ph.D. in composition and rhetoric from the University of South Carolina. His poems have appeared in Nimrod, Crazyhorse, Jabberwock, Natural Bridge, Los Angeles Review, Cold Mountain Review, and other journals and anthologies. McManus is the winner of the 1997 Academy of American Poets Award, the 2000 James Dickey Award in Poetry, and a 2002 Academy of South Carolina author's fellowship. He teaches writing at the University of South Carolina and is cofounder of Split P Soup, a poetry-writing initiative. Ray's website is http://www.raymcmanuspoetry.com.
"Ray McManus's incantatory rhythms, his catalogs of nouns (and sometimes verbs), carry us into the liminal territory between experience and music, which is to say, the territory of dream."—Susan Ludvigson, author of Sweet Confluence: New and Selected Poems and Escaping the House of Certainty
"The poetry in Ray McManus's first collection is touched by a light hand that points to and illuminates its sparkling surfaces and deep interior spaces. The work searches out, mourns, and celebrates place, family, love, and death—at all times asserting the continuity between what can be seen and what must be imagined…. This book is full of fervor and grace and is driven by a fierce regard for language and an understated moral vision. A terrific debut."—Eamonn Wall, author of Refuge at DeSoto Bend and From the Sin-é Cafe to the Black Hills
"What we take away from this book is the poet's solace in the quiet solitude of the writer at work, searching for the temporary consolations of the right word in the right place, and the power of that small act—made over and over again—to keep us alive and to keep us writing."—Kate Daniels, author of The White Wave, The Niobe Poems, and Four Testimonies; from the foreword