Everything about Really Happy, Jim Reese’s third full-length collection of poetry, is ordinary – focused on life all around us. But out of this ordinary the humanity of each of his characters comes to life, each craftily spun by Reese in perfect Midwestern tone and tenor, making these saints and sinners feel like family members. This familiarity, this elevation that Reese creates, making the ordinary extraordinary, will leave the reader feeling right at home, and Really Happy.
Though the settings of Jim Reese’s poems—late night diners, bowling alleys, prisons—can be tough, unremitting, and bleak, he treats his subjects with a tender depth and humor that makes me want to be right there with him. In fact, so vividly drawn are these sharp-eyed portraits of life in the hardscrabble country of the Dakotas that I do feel like I’m with him. In Really Happy, Reese is an eloquent tour guide, a smart, soft-hearted, wise-cracking Virgil in a land of lonely miles and piercing beauty.
– George Bilgere, author of Imperial
No other poet I can think of captures the Anglo-American Midwest dialect like Jim Reese. The ambling, sometimes hesitant cadences, the clever self-deprecating sayings, the gentle inflections, the pitch-perfect, barely smiling comic take… His expression consistently surprises by virtue of its casual precision. While the poems rarely commit direct assertion, his language typically renders the region’s signature temperament. Over and over in Really Happy, the speaker of these poems registers astonishment at the strangeness of this passing world, but immediately mutes that astonishment with a calm fatalism born of the challenging landscape. To enter this book is to be quietly swept into an existential imagination that’s modest, wry, agrarian—and of our time.
– Kevin Clark, author of Self-Portrait with Expletives
Jim Reese finds poetry everywhere—in emails; on bumper stickers; on skin; in bowling alleys and bars; in classrooms; in prisons; and in classrooms in prisons—and we’re lucky that he’s sharing it with us in this wry, compassionate collection. Really Happy is a really good book.
– Jim Daniels author of Having a Little Talk with Capital P Poetry
Jim Reese’s book Really Happy is a master performance by a poet who blends equal parts of passion and humor in his work. He takes huge risks in his poems and appears unafraid to tell the truth about the place where he lives, the people he loves, his own failures, and the ironic moments he captures so exquisitely. He is the quintessential American poet, one to be admired and read again and again.
– Maria Mazziotti Gillan, American Book Award winner