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The small towns and scrap-suburbs of the American Midwest mostly serve our media culture as scenes of nihilistic pride cultivated by the right or vexing and at times abhorrent parables pilloried by fundraisers on behalf of the left. Via some precision recipe of sheer skill in perception and bravery in feeling, and dashed with anger, pride, and, yes, some shame, Jacob Sunderlin's poems in This We In the Back of the House shatter, scatter and reclaim what we know and feel about the working class that labor and capital colluded to leave behind late in the 20th century. The living truths so courageously fused herein are tenaciously human.


—Ed Pavlić, author of Let it Be Broke


If I tell you this is a collection about labor, you might be tempted to presume a brooding sensibility. “Why is it narcotic, / standing in the mud, in a field, / passing a joint & watching a hog / try to mount another hog / and talking about work?” But these sly, gothic, at times operatic poems brightly complicate what we know about inheritance and debt. I hunkered down with these indelible riffs on brothers, burritos, a Chevy Bel Air, chemtrails, wrestling holds and the wisdom of Sugar. Adept with anaphora and sound play, Jacob Sunderlin gives this material skin and soul, inviting us in: “Let each knuckle bust // write its new arc." 


—Sandra Beasley, author of Made to Explode


In this compelling first collection, Jacob Sunderlin pays his debt, so to speak, to his working-class background by transforming it into pure poetry.  “Sooner or later, this shift is over, / our cigarettes lit so the cherry is held / against the factory dark.”  Family and friends, thankless jobs, even WrestleMania and the pimply kid working behind the counter at McDonald’s, are poignantly etched in Sunderlin’s clean, incisive lines.  His language redeems a way of life that’s “mostly // wasting time, half done.”  There are no half measures here; nothing is wasted.  This “realistic song” is rendered artfully, and with unflinching heart.


—David Trinidad, author of Digging to Wonderland

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