Kunz’s poems navigate through memories and trauma of an alcoholic father in and out of lives, brothers beating the crap out of each other in the back yard for fun, mothers scraping barely by, and the pain and injury growing up. The visceral imagery woven in the suffering gives a familiar feeling of one’s own injury, but the absurdity of the speakers’ lives help separate the personal away from the page. No better explanation of future damage is where Kunz writes, “We learned new moves, new ways to shock the body/into miracles of pain” (“Tap Out” p. 18). Trauma varies from person to person, and we quickly forget the sensation of pain. Tap Out delivers subtle reminders of some of that deep-stomached hurt from failed relationships, sweat and body aches during miserable jobs, and hunger pains of not knowing when the next meal may come.
The poems of Tap Out are cold, damaged, and sharp, so if you are looking for something light and fun, I am sorry, but this is not for you. On the other hand, though the themes and the general feelings of the book are harsh, Kunz demonstrates excellent care in the poetics of the book. A powerful poem of the collection titled “Graduation” exhibits Kunz’s fantastic writing. The first several lines are: