Poetry / Literature
Tom Mandel’s poetry moves the reader ever closer to a freedom that can only be found in art.
— Richard Roundy
It seems entirely right that Tom Mandel’s Letter to Poetry should have been occasioned, in part, by his purposive misremembering of a remark made by Harry Mathews. A dark European stripe runs through the work of both writers, and perhaps only they would contrive to chance upon a ripe clinamen in the Florida Keys. But was the letter answered, the reader inquires? Hell—was it ever! The beguilingly odd works visited upon our correspondent evince a rich, comedic music shot through with moments of stark poignance and reflective beauty. Tom Mandel is here to fold you into a rhyme; the note on his door reads, “I’ll be back in no time.”
— Miles Champion
Tom Mandel’s Letter to Poetry hums, rhymes, and spiels in passages dark and dear. It’s as if Byron had passed through postmodernism at warp speed to land in an only slightly recognizable present, tense with chance.
— Charles Bernstein
In Letter to Poetry, Tom Mandel finds both Rhyme and Reason under the hood of his Coupe de Ville. Rhyme is sometimes played for winks and Reason cloaked in gentle humor (“Maybe more hot air would make it / safe to cross the brink of this thin ice?”), but the undertones are stoic, Talmudic, and wise. Poetry offers Mandel a vast formal, historical, and even autobiographical toolkit. When he writes that a metaphor is “like a noun no longer / used on that occasion,” his words are both wistful and transporting. Poetry was built to perform this task.
— Jean Day