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Tough Guys Don't Write

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“ Joe Benevento is a contender with words, holding back few punches; he is quick to get you hooked into reading these fast and strong poems. If you are a fan of his fiction, he makes an outstanding transition into poetry in this volume. Tough Guys Don’t Write jabs and hooks, holding nothing back. This is a book about manhood and being a man in the world. It’s a wonderful book filled with poems about being a son, a father, a husband and a friend. The poems tell stories, sure, but they are also lyrical and bittersweet. This volume will leave you TKO’d!

~ Virgil Suarez, Ninety Miles, Selected and New Poems


In Tough Guys Don’t Write, Joe Benevento proves a poet does not need tricks or Avant Garde forms to captivate a reader of contemporary poetry. Fiercely loyal to his working class background, this janitor’s-son-become-professor addresses subjects from aging parents to lost neighborhoods, to achingly remembered first love, and he does so with crisp language (toadstools in his yard carry “an aggressive odor/ like someone else’s sex”) and even crisper observation, (“Bruno, with his Italian accent intact/ after fifty years absence from Palermo”). I especially admire the way Benevento concludes certain poems such as “Watching Dracula With My Daughter,” and “Little Girls In Their Easter Dresses…,” so that disparate layers converge and we are struck with added depth and meaning. Tough Guys Don’t Write is a wonderfully readable collection, rich with compelling narratives and a voice that glints by turns with grim humor and with tenderness.

~ Francine M. Tolf, Rain, Lilies, Luck


In these poems, Joe Benevento knows there is no escape from one’s personal history, and no reason to escape. He celebrates family in all its facets and polarities, the fecundities and difficulties alike. With the plain-spoken ease and realism of Frost, these poems dance in and out of his Italian family and his old neighborhood, the leaving and returning that brings joy and loss. Whether the subject is his aging father’s acceptance of his mortality, no longer bragging about living to one hundred, or a fishing trip with a friend, who stole his girlfriend, these poems are written with a wisdom and compassion that this crazy world desperately needs. ”

~ Walter Bargen, Missouri’s first Poet Laureate


Benevento is a longtime professor of English and creative writing at Truman State University. In these powerful poems of consummate literary artistry, Benevento reveals, with rare insight and honesty, both the hard-core realisms and hard-earned epiphanies of his blue-collar, working-class upbringing. His finely crafted poetry is brilliantly juxtaposed with the grittiness and down-to-earth authenticity of his subject matter. His best poems bring to mind the exceptional work of Phillip Levine and B. H. Fairchild. Highly recommended.

~ Larry D. Thomas, 2008 Texas Poet Laureate


Read Sample Poems

Tough Guys Don’t Write, Finishing Line Press, 2011.