The earliest poems in The Tao of Twang were written for what I thought of as “The Blue Collar Poetry Tour.” It is easy to use the formulaic You might be a Redneck if. . . to mock (and dismiss) people who are rural and small town, working class, and white—Oh, Bubba, you are, it seems, the one derogatory stereotype we can still glibly deploy without a twinge of political guilt or shame. And just as easy as it is to mock Bubba and his kin, they can invert this same formula to mock back. These moves can offer a laugh or two, but they too quickly become reductive, mean spirited, dismissive, playing into the social and political divisiveness that has intensified since this collection was published.
Whatever Bubba may be, he’s more than a cowboy hat and beer belly, more than a six pack and rusty pickup, more than even that MAGA hat he took to wearing in 2016, failing to realize that Donnie T. was playing him like a drum. And so the book became, instead, a kind of meditation on what might be termed the ethos of twang. In that turn, the poems became, it seems, less certain about matters of class and region, but perhaps more useful.
(A special thanks to John Hunt for the great cover design.)