Proper Etiquette in the Slaughterhouse Line by James Duncan
Proper Etiquette in the Slaughterhouse Line, 17 poems that start out discussing modern day office life, the “rise and grind” corporate cog culture that decimates souls, and evolves into a story of that workaday world crumbling into an apocalyptic landscape of humanity’s final gasp as Earth reboots itself, becoming a more peaceful world if only for the lack of us.
James Duncan’s new collection of poems punch me square in the teeth. Most of us work a job we hate just so we can survive in a world that would rather see us exhausted than in love, that would rather see us depressed than creative, that would have us put our heads down and live among the meaningless than to look up and discover awful truths. These are poems in the vein of Carver, Bukowski, and James Wright. Workers, fighters, and people with little hope, trapped in a system they cannot beat, but sometimes can beat late at night during the exhausted hours. These poems take the everyday mundane existence we are force fed eight hours a day and show us there is hope, but only if we are willing to open the doors of the slaughterhouse. -Frank Reardon, author of Loud Love on the Sevens and Elevens, Blood Music and others
With Proper Etiquette in the Slaughterhouse Line, James H. Duncan does a superb job of showing us our humanity exactly as we are living it, the pain, the struggle, the sickness and all the manifestations of any joys we can find to keep ourselves grounded. Duncan’s poems are both heartbreaking and equal parts exuberant within the expression of the simplest speck of human minutiae. This book of poetry exposes our very soul. -John Grochalski, author of Eating a Cheeseburger During the End Times and P-Town Forever
James Duncan shows his work. He is thorough and true. There is a cadence to these poems that goes beyond the poems themselves. The entire book moves like a train. Duncan uses language as a vehicle in which the reader truly travels. There are depots and little worlds along the journey. There are tiny poems inside each poem itself. His poems are crafted like stories told between friends, stories too painful to tell, stories written in real time and reflection, stories that are windows and stories that are lessons learned through the grinding grief and unpredictable joy that define nearly every life ever lived. Duncan reminds us that our lives are large, real and precious, but so much is lost in the paperwork and the phone call and the everyday business of our lives. This book is a catalog of the glory and the desperation of being alive in a world that challenges decency. These poems fight to deny that challenge, to disregard it even as we live it and see it out the windows of our brains, our bargains with ourselves and as we bump along the tracks of our lives. Duncan reminds us that “if you’re going to die, die with decency. — Dena Rash Guzman, author of Joseph and Life Cycle