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4.18  ·  Rating Details ·  244 Ratings  ·  35 Reviews
Untitled and unpunctuated, the seventy poems in this collection seem to cascade from one page to another. Maurice Manning extolls the virtues of nature and its many gifts, and finds deep gratitude for the mysterious hand that created it all.

that bare branch that branch made black

by the rain the silver raindrop

hanging from the black branch

Boss I like that black branch

Hardcover, 112 pages
Published April 2nd 2007 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (first published 2007)
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May 22, 2008 Elizabeth added it
Shelves: poetry
Woah.... maybe a case of the right book at the right time, but the original and compelling and entire vision of this book just sucked me in. 70 poems all in one voice, all spoken by a farmer to "Boss" (God). There are some ticks that repeat a time to many, but overall, this person talking about weather, plants, animals, addressing Boss intimately and crankily and reverently is amazing.
Erika B. (SOS BOOKS)
Mar 02, 2016 Erika B. (SOS BOOKS) rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
I'm just going to copy and paste what I wrote down for my class discussion board! hahaha #selfplagiarism

"Shepherds are honest people, let them sing."-George Herbert (I loved this-that is the only reason this is here)

Yay pastoral poetry! Virgil/Vergil would be proud! (How do you spell his name anyway?!) I actually thoroughly enjoyed the use of the word "Boss." At first it kind of threw me for a loop because I obviously associate it with slavery which is darker subject matter. I decided though tha
Dec 27, 2009 Laura rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
I zipped through these like an addict, lighting the tip of one with the still-burning end of the other. It is good for me to read this. So often I am lusting after wild words, strange lexicons, things a Victorian theosophist might say. It is a wonder what Manning can do with the simplest of raw materials - soil, leaf, rock. Our narrator, a farmer in his field, is in conversation with a silent and inscrutable "Boss." The resulting hymn-like soliloquies are so intricately crafted as to allow their ...more
Oct 21, 2009 S. rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry, read-in-2009
Ah, Joyous Affirmation! Let Maurice Manning be led to the head of the table. If I had to choose between drugs and this book, I'd probably choose this book. Is this book married? Because I'd marry it.
Sherry Chandler
Oct 03, 2008 Sherry Chandler rated it it was amazing
Shelves: thepoets
I have imported my review of Bucolics from my defunct blog and added it below.

I wouldn't exactly call it a review.

Manning is a poet willing to take big leaps. So far, I think he's landed on his feet.

But then I am prejudiced, because he seems determined to remain a Kentucky poet first and foremost, a poet of the common people.

Which doesn't keep his poetry from being very smart.


In the opening sentence to his essay "Poetry and Religion,"* Mark Jarman says

Just as poetry persists in the face of wi
Paul Cockeram
May 31, 2014 Paul Cockeram rated it really liked it
Maurice Manning's collection of poetry is a deeply American book. As its title suggests, all 78 of these poems celebrate the land and our stewardship of the plants and animals living there. The poems share a single speaker, whose voice reads like the gentle hero of a western: observant, soft-spoken, accustomed to the silence of the trail, a man who says only what he means and never wastes a word. The speaker addresses his words to "Boss," a character whose identity emerges over the course of the ...more
Oct 09, 2007 Anna rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
"Shepherds are honest people, let them sing."

That line from George Herbert opens Bucolics, Maurice Manning's third book.

Haunting and funny, innovative and heartening, this collection of seventy untitled, unpunctuated poems features a nameless land laborer talking to his creator, whom he calls 'boss.' Not a religious book in the traditional sense, this is rather one of questions, wonder, and, at times, sadness. The poems move like a reverie and it strikes deep. I swallowed big pieces of this boo
May 07, 2008 Joe rated it really liked it
Recommended to Joe by: Brian Brodeur
Shelves: poetry
Short-lined, unpunctuated little conversations w/a God who is pictured as a laconic rural laborer. Calls the G-O-D B-O-S-S. Lots of rhymes and little bells being rung. Devotional in the way of Christopher Smart, Blake, prayer primer books--much play which makes the sudden emergence of doubt more unsettling: "I'm happy Boss happy as a bird / hopping on a branch just a little branch" to "what reason can you give me now / for filling half of everything / with honey just to leave the half / remainin ...more
Feb 09, 2017 Kirk rated it it was amazing
Well done, Maurice! Giving words to the longings and thoughts of the soul in a unique form makes them that much more sacred and perspicacious.
Jul 30, 2009 Erica rated it really liked it
Charming book of poems. I almost cringe to use the word charming because it almost sounds condescending, and yet this book is brave in how directly it addresses the entity Manning calls "Boss," whom I take to be God or whoever that mysterious force is that makes and unmakes all. The questioning is so guileless but intelligent. I almost felt like I was being led through all the unfiltered questions I have had for that nameless, elusive being, yet the author still managed to pose those questions a ...more
William Reichard
Dec 09, 2012 William Reichard rated it it was amazing
What a beautiful, flowing book of poems! Or, what a beautiful, flowing long poem! Marked only by numbers, these poems form a monologue, addressed to "Boss" (i.e. God). Sometimes the narrator describes to the Boss the world around him, sometimes he directly addresses the Boss, and sometimes he asks the Boss questions, challenges him, waits for answers. But all the time, throughout the poems, there is a sense of reverence for the world, a kind of praise that isn't a prayer. Lovely.
Rita Quillen
Jan 13, 2014 Rita Quillen rated it it was amazing
Other than Midquest (Fred Chappell) I can't think of a book of poetry in my lifetime that so blew my mind in its originality...true genius originality--not deliberate obfuscation (baffling us with b.s.)--not pretentiousness( this requires a reader's guide and T.S. Eliot worthy notes). Just...divine. Like the 'boss'-aka God- that this audacious poet talks to, harangue, questions, teases
throughout this brilliant book.. :-)
Jan 03, 2012 Evelyn rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This is a book of poetry that I have revisited many times now. I had the pleasure of hearing Manning read some selections from "Bucolics" during my undergraduate studies, and his delivery was simply stunning. I love the voice of the protagonist, a common-man in a world of rural beauty, who banters with his "boss". Manning had such a clever, simple idea in writing from this point of view, and executes it beautifully through a masterful control of form and rhythm.
Jonathan Hiskes
Aug 29, 2014 Jonathan Hiskes rated it really liked it
A Kentucky farmhand addresses a subject named only as Boss in these plainspoken unpunctuated poems. Lively, testy, interrogative, playful. I've heard Manning read at a house party in Bloomington, and knowing his sloooow cadence really helps hear the music in these lines.

thank you Boss O thank you
for the yellow-belly sun for
the moon fatter than a tick
thank you for the season
thank you for the long-leg
shadows Boss
Jan 12, 2015 Kaylie rated it really liked it
i was going to give this one three stars, but the last handful of poems brought it back up to four.
i'm not what you might call "religious," but i appreciated these poems nonetheless. keenly beautiful in their observance of nature, refuting the idea that what is simple cannot be deep and meaningful and profound. if i could give the final poem a kiss, i would. i waited the entire book for that last line.
Gary McDowell
Jul 02, 2007 Gary McDowell rated it really liked it
Shelves: good-ones
I'm supposed to be writing a review of this book. I can't do it. I know, I'm not supposed to say "can't," but I honestly just don't know where to start...

I may leave this one for awhile and read it again later. I LOVED it, but there's something comical about it that makes me giggle when I read some of the poems. And that's not usually a reaction I like to have. Weird. Really weird.
Sep 07, 2012 Cary rated it it was amazing
So I've been reading a lot of this guy. Anyway, this book probably changed the course of my inner-life a little bit, not mentioning the impact it's had on my own poetry. Anyway...
Sep 09, 2014 Joe rated it it was amazing
Bucolics, Maurice Manning, 94 pp.

I just received, from a well-known and distributed book review magazine, an assurance that Christian erotica is alive and well, complete with a photo of a sultry woman seductively pulling a rosary through her lips. So . . . so it’s good to know that there are authors who take spirituality seriously. And Maurice Manning is just such an author, though you should take the word “seriously” with advisement, since his collection of 78 poems carries a charm and ease tha
Oct 26, 2013 Koeeoaddi rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
Unpunctuated, uncomplicated little one sided conversations with the Creator (who the poet calls "Boss") -- now doesn't that just sound precisous? It isn't, really. The tone makes these poems work for me -- wry, self deprecating and full of simple wonder at the natural world.

that branch made black
by the rain the silver raindrop
hanging from the black branch
Boss I like that black branch
I like that shiny raindrop Boss
tell me if I���m wrong but it makes
me think you���re looking right
at me now isn���t
May 30, 2010 Jessie added it
Shelves: poetry
My suggestion: read it in one sitting, on a slow Sunday morning, at the beginning of spring, or in that hovering place between spring and summer; Manning is a third cousin to the Psalmist, mixing his praise and doubt, his elation and oh-so-human worrying; as Mike and I plant our flower pots today, I’ll still stay alongside the narrator as he says:

“I’m waiting Boss beside my stack
of little rocks I’ve got a string
of yellow feathers tied around
my neck that way you’ll know it’s me
who needs the rain
B. Mason
Bucolics is a moving collection of poems. The speaker's repeated addresses to the Boss in each poem roll out with surprising emotional force. They want to praise the Boss, question the Boss, speculate about the Boss, brag about the Boss, and all the while you're privy to this conversation. Manning's use of repetition does not grow stale, but builds momentum and captures the awe and wonder of the speaker's relationship with the Boss.
Aug 14, 2012 Chris rated it liked it
Shelves: abandoned
Okay, so clearly I'm never finishing this. Manning's not a bad poet, but the conceit here sits uneasily with me. The speaker--a ranch hand--offers each of these poems as a direct address to the divine, whom he calls "Boss".

Should I have known this wasn't for me based on the premise? Probably, but it came highly recommended. As I said, Manning's a good poet, but I'm not his audience.
Rob the Obscure
Nov 22, 2009 Rob the Obscure rated it liked it
I'm having a strange reaction to this poetry. There are days when I pick it up and say, " trite." There are other days when I pick it up and think, " formulaic".

Then, there are days when I pick it up and go..."wow...that's really moving and beautiful imagery."

Hmmm...the poetry is not changing...I guess I am.
Mar 06, 2009 Rebecca rated it it was ok
Interesting premise -- addressing God as "boss" in an Appalachian dialect -- but honestly, not THAT interesting for an entire book of poems. A little too hierarchical of a God-man relationship for me.
Jun 12, 2012 Chris rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: abandoned
In the end, I could never accept the conceit: a speaker who directly addresses the divine as "Boss" and explores the mysteries (both big and small) of life through verse. Some nice poems in this collection, but it ain't my bag.
Jun 18, 2010 Cara rated it it was amazing
Absolute brilliance.
Jan 04, 2011 Cait rated it it was amazing
one of the BEST poetry books I have ever read. read it cover to cover!
R Nida
Oct 22, 2012 R Nida rated it really liked it
Great to read a book written by an Earlham friend! Wow, he's deep!
Feb 18, 2011 C rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
Nov 16, 2009 Shaudee rated it it was amazing
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Poetry Readers Ch...: Bucolics by Maurice Manning 3 11 Dec 14, 2014 12:19PM  
  • M-A-C-N-O-L-I-A
  • Song
  • Wind in a Box
  • Black Zodiac
  • The Master Letters: Poems
  • Native Guard: Poems
  • Blind Huber
  • Mistaking the Sea for Green Fields
  • Hinge & Sign: Poems, 1968-1993
  • Atlantis
  • Lug Your Careless Body out of the Careful Dusk: A Poem in Fragments
  • World's Tallest Disaster: Poems
  • Collected Poems
  • Sad Little Breathing Machine
  • Lampblack & Ash: Poems
  • Blood Dazzler
  • Against Which
  • Mosquito
MAURICE MANNING, the author of four collections of poetry, was awarded the 2009 Hanes Poetry Award from the Fellowship of Southern Writers. His first book, Lawrence Booth’s Book of Visions, was selected by W. S. Merwin for the Yale Series of Younger Poets. Manning, a former writing fellow at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts, teaches at Indiana University and Warren Wilson C ...more
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