Approach these poems as short stories, plainspoken lyric essays, controlled arcs of a bildungsroman, then again as narrative verse. Tap Out, Edgar Kunz’s debut collection, reckons with his working‑class heritage. Within are poignant, troubling portraits of blue‑collar lives, mental health in contemporary America, and what is conveyed and passed on through touch and words―violent, or simply absent.
Yet Kunz’s verses are unsentimental, visceral, sprawling between oxys and Bitcoin, crossing the country restlessly. They grapple with the guilt of choosing to leave the culture Kunz was born and raised in, the identity crises caused by class mobility. They pull the reader close, alternating fierce whispers and proud shouts about what working hands are capable of and the different ways a mind and body can leave a life they can no longer endure. This hungry new voice asks: after you make the choice to leave, what is left behind, what can you make of it, and at what cost?
“Edgar Kunz’s startling debut Tap Out is one of the best books of poetry I’ve read in a long time. These poems interrogate what is received and what is bequeathed in our damaged systems of masculinity, and they do so in ways that are unexpectedly vulnerable. At the same time, the poems are onomatopoeia of humility and busted machismo. It’s as if the poems themselves are surprised by how much harm has been done, how much energy and emotion have been expended simply surviving inside of our toxic patriarchy. Fathers are complicit. Friends and brothers are complicit. The speaker is complicit, too, and yet the poems do their vital work without soapboxing. They search constantly for better ways of being human. These are essential poems.”
— Adrian Matjeka, author of The Big Smoke and Map to the Stars
”There is no ground of existence that does not require (or fail to sustain) its poet. This proposition, requiring continual re-proving, has found again its confirmation in Edgar Kunz’s first book. In the lineage of Levine, Jordan, and Laux, Tap Out presents the data of blows received and taken in fully. Yet these poems do not return blow for blow; they offer instead an unflinching, continued allegiance to abiding connection. Without summation or comment, they remind us that all alchemies of being are possible. Kunz’s precision-tool language of memory and witness enlarges, pivots, pieces together the broken into a world made new, survivable, holdable, forgiven.”
— Jane Hirshfield, author of The Beauty and Come, Thief
“Edgar Kunz extends the legacy of James Wright and Philip Levine in these gutsy, tough-minded, working-class poems of memory and initiation. Tap Out is a marvelous debut, a well-made and harrowing book.”
— Edward Hirsch, author of Gabriel and A Poet’s Glossary