Critical Commentary

Barbara Hamby says of Mormon Boy, "Seth Tucker takes you on a trip to the outer limits of our time—to Baghdad and back again, and what he sees will leave you stunned but amazed that a human being could be so resilient, so passionate, and so open to the beauty and terror of the world. Here is a true Romantic—as if Keats and Byron had ironed out their differences and decided to take off for parts unknown. This book is an avalanche of images--tender, terrifying, and as rich as the landscapes they describe." 

David Kirby has this to say about it: "A young man goes to a desert war, somehow returns with body and mind intact, and begins to write poems about his experiences. Will they be raw, brutal, all but impossible to read? Actually, no. Seth Tucker looks into the abyss, but it's a 'pretty abyss,' as one of these poems says, because life rendered with feeling is always beautiful. Tucker embraces his subject but transcends it; a pleasure to read, these poems show poets how great poems are written."

As a former paratrooper with the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division, Tucker writes viscerally about combat (a fellow soldier dies in “a splash of bone and brain”) and wistfully, wittily about love (see “Making Out in Cars with Bucket Seats and Other Tales of Woe”). As you can guess, I was especially drawn to the poems about the Iraq War. That conflict still clings to my skin like desert dust, and Tucker’s stanzas make it even harder to shake. You know what you’re in for right from the opening lines of the very first poem called “The Road to Baghdad” which, he writes, “Is less a road than a floral/collection of spongy and soft/bodies…” Like the work of Brian Turner before him, Tucker has urgent, vital things to tell us about war and we should all sit up and listen. –David Abrams

Can eyeballing Steve Martin Kill a person? Is the baptismal font really for drowning little boys who just don’t cut it? Is the trapdoor spider important? Can a woman’s great ass save us? These deeply weird, dark, at-times-hilarious, war-torn poems, like a mule ride, are: “unpredictable, exhilarating, uncomfortable, and silly’ (I admit it—I giggled). And yet, when Kafka said, ‘A book must be an ice-axe to break the seas frozen inside our soul,’ he had Seth Tucker’s Mormon Boy in mind—for with electrified language, grit, and pathos, this stunning debut collection commands love of raw humanity, unhinged from superstition. I'm bemused with most "first books" as I usually assign three or four to my classes each year and find them slavishly derivative, stuffed to the gills with tweety birds, politically self-righteous or so clever they are trite. I am thrilled, then, to find this deeply weird and wild debut collection which (somehow) manages to marry raw war footage with Mormon-boy memories, imagination and raucous wit that may make you &*@#$ your pants. Buy it--if you suspect poetry is a festival for the dead and like surprises--"The Very Best Man in All The World," alone, is a mule-ride that is worth the cover price.
--Jane Springer

And what poetry. Whether writing about the devastation of war or a soggy day in Dublin or riffing on the film Being There, Tucker is plangent without being self-indulgent, deft without being glib. Speaking of the immolation of his younger self, through bad things he saw and did in the military, he manages to turn guilt and shame into an anthem. –Denver Post/Westword