2011 Title » Poetry
Working in Flour
From the poet wrestling the saleswoman behind the counter at the chocolate shop for a plate of free samples to Cain slaying Abel in Iraq to appease his savage God, from a dinner with friends spoiled by the intrusion of a gnat to a bungled job at the bakery to antic, surreal sexual encounters to T.S. Eliot eating a bagel and lox and then fox trotting with a slip to Bob Dylan quaking like a duck, these comic visionary poems succeed in transforming even the most ordinary event into a parable of our struggle to retain our humanity in this "soiled world," where torture, war, deadly epidemics, genocides natural disasters, and mass deaths have become commonplace. Working in Flour reveals the tragic comic dimension of our existence in lyric poems infused with a historical consciousness. The wildly hilarious moment is set against the tragic losses that haunt our lives. The characters in this book might have walked right out the pages of a Gogol or Isaac Babel Story. So much sadness and pain and yet the poems will make you laugh out loud.
Jeff Friedman is the author of four previous collections of poetry: Black Threads, Taking Down the Angel, Scattering the Ashes, and The Record-Breaking Heat Wave. He teaches at Keene State College and lives in West Lebanon, New Hampshire, with the painter Colleen Randall and their dog, Bekka.
Jeff Friedman is a great liar and an even greater comedian. As a liar, he remembers everything and nothing from the last two thousand years. As a comedian, he knows hyperbole, pacing, irony, and all the others. He can't fool me though, he's a true poet and those are façades. If he had written nothing but "Poem for Ross Gay." If he had written nothing but "My Shammai."
From Working in Flour's opening poem's comic-demotic-parodic confession of taking all the chocolate samples in a store, we know we are in the company of a poet who knows, as did Amichai, that we must laugh and cry at the same time. Jeff Friedman has written a wise and funny book, filled with bittersweet memories of a first kiss, work blunders, reconjurings of a Jewish working-class family, as well as antic surreal poems about sex. His new political and biblical poems read like small contemporary parables of mythic dimension. For its range of poems and its comic visionary American voice, Working in Flour is bloomin' terrific!
Any reader who finds Working in Flour in the bookstore should start reading with poems such as "Notes from a Love Life" or "Ishmael" or "Presidential Logic" or "Bridge Street Café" or "Sotto Voce"—the spell and trance of their tone coupled with their humor will seduce you into buying this book. And buy it you should. It is marvelous.
To purchase Working in Flour by Jeff Friedman, please contact our distributor, University Press of New England toll free at 1-800-421-1561 or by fax at 1-603-448-9729. The book is also available online at UPNE, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other fine retailers.
To request a copy for review, please contact the Carnegie Mellon University Press Editorial Offices at (412) 268-2861 or by email at CarnegieMellonUniversityPress@gmail.com.