Randall Mann is the author of five poetry collections, most recently A Better Life, published in April 2021 by Persea Books, as well as a book of criticism, The Illusion of Intimacy: On Poetry (Diode Editions, 2019). His recent work has been published in The Adroit Journal, Asian American Literary Review, jubilat, Lit Hub, Poem-A-Day, and elsewhere. The recipient of awards from the Poetry Foundation and TheKenyon Review, and a three-time Lambda Literary Award finalist, he lives in San Francisco.
The Illusion of Intimacy: On Poetry brings Randall Mann’s characteristic wit, fearlessness, and attention to language, to twenty years of critical works, including reviews of early books by Laura Kasischke and Vijay Seshadri; essays on Shame, Money, and Forgetting; appreciations of Thom Gunn and John Ashbery; and two interviews. This incisive collection—a combination of criticism, close reading, autobiography, exuberance, and occasional irritation—offers a look into the mind of one of America’s finest formalists, revealing how the compression and vulnerability of the lyric draws us closer to, while asking us to resist, the limitations, freedoms, and intimacies of poetry.
Randall Mann’s new prose collection, The Illusion Of Intimacy, is a wonderful and witty collection of reviews, musings, autobiographical sketches, and close readings regarding the art of poetry. Like his poems, Mann's essays are erudite, deeply informed, and formally astute (given that Mann is one of contemporary poetry's most gifted poets, writing frequently in form). But more than this, the voice here is warmly welcoming, like settling in for a comfy chat with a friend known for being a frank and funny storyteller. This is a terrific book for both long-time readers of poetry, and for newer readers looking to understand how poets think and feel about the art they make. With Randall Mann, you couldn’t ask for better company.
— Erin Belieu
Revelatory, resonant, and inevitably personal, Randall Mann’s prose shimmers with insight.
— Rigoberto González
What I love is just how intimate The Illusion of Intimacy can become; Mann reveals his secrets right and left. He attends to bad work as well as work by the greats, so it’s not one five-star review after another: not everything’s perfect, and he can score the dull or the undercooked with something of the acerbic wit of, mmm, Fran Lebowitz. Throughout this extraordinary collection one feels the fury of one who really loves poetry, the writhing passion of selection, rejection, elation, seduction.