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?


Praise for Tap Out


An extraordinary new voice that draws its energy from an underrepresented perspective.”

Publishers Weekly Starred Review

“The sustained lyricism of these poems is all the more powerful for being burned at the edges by memory, by grief, by regret. In terms of craft, this poetry creates a world where human action reaches language the way gravity bends starlight: in a drama of weight and light. This is a hard-pressed place, a territory of failed relationships and regions that never become landscape. As its reporter, Edgar Kunz lives up to its challenges and understands its limits. This is a wonderful first book, memorable and unsettling.”

— Eavan Boland, author of A Woman Without a Country and A Poet’s Dublin

“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 Matejka, author of Map to the Stars and The Big Smoke

“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 bookIn 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

“This powerful collection reads like an elegy and a confession, like a slap to the face followed by a plaintive kiss, like watching bad things happen and knowing that you’re complicit. Yet cutting through every one of these essential poems is a gritty, naturalistic beauty that makes me want to read them again and again. Tap Out is a gem, and Edgar Kunz is a major talent.

— Andre Dubus III, author of Townie and The House of Sand and Fog

“Tap Out is an ardent and gorgeous refusal to scorn the aches and wounds that bring us closer to mercy. Rippling with both sorrow and wonder, his narratives sift through the intricacies of masculinity, working class lives, and abandonment. The telling isn’t singed with nostalgia that obscures pain: his finely-wrought lines make visible the scars that tether the self to hurt, to hope. The poems are deftly scored on the page—the diction itself is revelatory. ShopRite. Larch. Chamber-throat. Edgar Kunz’s debut reminds us the heart has its own intelligence.”

— Eduardo C. Corral, author of Slow Lightning