A Romantic Mann is the kind of collection that not only left me wanting more but also made me wonder how I didn’t know about Jeff Mann before now. This collection repeatedly took my breath away. Deftly divided into four parts, each section explores a different broad idea of the sensual and erotic through flowing language and scintillating imagery.
The second part’s poems are all named after the seven modern modes of music, and the fourth section centers on Europe and the author’s experiences there. Probably the strongest part is the third. It contains the poem “Alan Turing Memorial – Manchester” with the line, “I will speak again and again of what men like you could not.” Later, in the poem “Virginia Fantasia”, the line “What I love is the world reimagined, revised” is written. These two lines specifically describe what the collection encompasses: accessible poems that completely captivate the reader. It’s hard to talk about the standout pieces, however, because most of the pieces shine in one way or another.
The poet isn’t shy about reflecting exactly what he wants to show; many of these poems have a heat and eroticism that few other collections I’ve read recently can match. If this set has a weak spot, it probably lies in Mann’s proclivity of using similar phrasing in poems that are grouped together. Although the repetition doesn’t hurt either poem, these lines occurring in different poems of relative proximity is a bit unnerving. The feeling of déjà vu jerks the reader out of the moment. Yet this is truly a minor complaint, one easily forgotten as the next poem starts.
A Romantic Mann is exceptional. Although it’s a bit early in 2014 to start making “best of” claims, I have faith that this will be one of the best things I’ve read this year. Make it a point to add to your list. This collection is recommended for any library that collects poetry or has a strong LGBT collection as well as for individuals who like their poetry with a bit of body and an approach to love that’s less Elizabeth Barrett Browning and more like a gay John Wilmott.
Reviewer: Mack Freeman