Danger, Man Working: Writing from the Heart, the Gut, and the Poison Ivy Patch

November 1, 2020
Danger, Man Working: Writing from the Heart, the Gut, and the Poison Ivy Patch

"Every writer has advice for aspiring writers. Mine ispredicated on formative years spent cleaning my father’s calf pens:Just keep shoveling until you’ve got a pile so big, someone has tonotice. The fact that I cast my life’s work as slung manure simplyproves that I recognize an apt metaphor when I accidentally stickit with a pitchfork. . . . Poetry was my first love, my gatewaydrug—still the poets are my favorites—but I quickly realized Ilacked the chops or insights to survive on verse alone. But Iwanted to write. Every day. And so I read everything I could aboutfreelancing, and started shoveling."The pieces gathered within this book draw on fifteen years ofwhat Michael Perry calls "shovel time"—a writer going to work asthe work is offered. The range of subjects is wide, from muskyfishing, puking, and mountain-climbing Iraq War veterans to thefrozen head of Ted Williams. Some assignments lead toself-examination of an alarming magnitude (as Perry notes, "Itquickly becomes obvious that I am a self-absorbed hypochondriacforever resolving to do better nutritionally and fitness-wise butmy follow-through is laughable.") But his favorites are those thatallow him to turn the lens outward: "My greatest privilege," hesays, "lies not in telling my own story; it lies in being trustedto tell the story of another."