Children in Tactical Gear offers a brilliant feed of stark incantations and unsparing satire. Set in distinctly American landscapes, including toy weapon assembly lines and the compounds of the super rich, and voiced by imperiled children, failed adults, and even a smart home speaker, this collection demonstrates the unsettling force of a surreal imagination under duress.


“The book is melodious and enraged, overrun but never wild. There’s too much at stake to give up, to let go of fury and heartbreak over how hyper-capitalistic greed has leveled human experience into a virtual mall in which children in tactical gear prowl, armed, into a future branded and brought to you by Mattel. Tragedies are made absurd with profit; loss is another market, another Target. Meanwhile families scrounge, families unroll into the violent unknown. The treasures of life become mere corporate ashes. The visionary, heartbroken poet Mishler tells us it’s not right. I’m listening. Let us turn from the screen and listen. He’s not wrong, and his truths require more attention than banner ads do. Mishler knows our world may be past saving—he also knows that this moment is worth saving, and that this moment, at least, is not past, yet. He inscribes it, quivering with life, with so much doomed beautiful life that it’s impossible not to love it, this book, this life, this beauty only Peter Mishler could write, in just this crushed, loving way.”—Brenda Shaughnessy, judge, Iowa Poetry Prize

“Peter Mishler's Children in Tactical Gear seems to me an almost impossible book, a book that works like autotune on the current moment, somehow both exactly present and ahead of the present. How did Mishler know Mattel would be in everyone’s thoughts just when his book was being released? And how did he make such beautiful, skipping music of the flat noise of twenty-first-century consumer culture? In each of these poems is such music, and ‘depth / swollen with / depth’s becoming,’ magically achieved.”—Shane McCrae, author, Pulling the Chariot of the Sun

“Peter Mishler’s Children in Tactical Gear enacts its own words, ‘unstitching, re-stitching’ the truth of childhood manipulations enacted through romanticized and imposed ideals. A prestidigitator of words and image, Mishler pulls back the veil to reveal the ways in which we become the toys that we played with and the myths we were taught. Under Mishler’s eye, the real and the imagined collide and combust creating a page-turning collection that masterfully shows as it tells. Just be warned that when you pick this book up, be prepared not to put it down.”—Airea D. Matthews, author, Bread and Circus

“Mishler’s poems are like language eating language, binging on rhymes and turns, until what emerges is something entirely new.”—Victoria Chang, author, Obit

“Mishler is an ’erstwhile prophet’ with a ’tiny hammer’ in this collection: a rage against American consumerism delivered from the island of broken toys. These poems live within a desolate landscape of unrecyclable ’things,’ and are satirical, witty, and unpredictable in their strangeness.”—New York Public Library poetry committee

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