Early / Late: New & Selected Poems
Page Count: 162
Publication Date: Thursday, January 20, 2011
Cover Artwork: Girl on Highline by Lynn Saville.
About this Book
Early/Late: New and Selected Poems draws from Philip Fried's previous four collections of poetry - Mutual Trespasses (Ion, 1988), Quantum Genesis (Zohar, 1997), Big Men Speaking to Little Men (Salmon, 2006), and Cohort (Salmon, 2009). These highly praised books -A.R. Ammons called Quantum Genesis a 'major new testament' explored such themes as the tribulations of a vulnerable deity and the intersection of personal myth and historical moment. The new poems, in a section titled 'The Emanation Crunch,' are haunted by the current financial turmoil and possessed by the disembodied voices that multiply in our world of simulacra. As D. Nurkse wrote of Cohort, this work 'opens exciting territory where poems haven't dared to venture' the toxic side of the Information Age as it veers out of control.
Philip Fried is a New York-based poet and editor of The Manhattan
Review. His poems have been widely published in journals and have
appeared in many anthologies, including Salmon: A Journey in Poetry
Poetry, Poems 1981 - 2007 and Poetry After 9-11: An Anthology of New York
Poets. In addition to being a poet, Fried is the founding editor of The
Manhattan Review, an international poetry journal that critics have
called 'excellent' and 'lively.' He collaborated with his wife, the
fine-art photographer Lynn Saville, on a volume combining her nocturnal
photographs with poetry from around the world: Acquainted with the Night
Review: Early/Late: New & Selected Poems reviewed in Poet Lore, Fall/Winter, 2012, Vol. 107, Nos. ¾
by Debra Wierenga
Recently published works by five Poet Lore poets illuminate our everyday relationships with nature, cities, technology, and each other. The first of these, Philip Fried’s Early/Late, begins with new poems by the Manhattan-based poet, then presents selections from his earlier works in chronological order—an arrangement that lets the reader experience the poet’s most recent creative output and trace its thematic roots back through time.
Fried has always played fast and loose with Biblical themes and forms, mixing them with the jargon and jingles of modern-day capitalism to startling effect. Poems from his first collection, Mutual Trespasses, profile a hapless deity whose creation has surpassed him technologically—
and whose dreams expand with the thrust of a fireball
but who cannot lift a pinky to mend the sheath
of a single neuron torn from its groove in muscle.
Book by book, we watch the poet make more audacious leaps between archaic and contemporary language and concerns until, in his most recently published work, Cohort, he reclaims the sonnet form to rewrite Psalms for a digital age:
By Babylon’s flow-charts I sat down and wept, far
from home, my player-piano hands still appeasing
data-gods with the ragtime of input, clicks
(“By Babylon’s flow-charts….”)
Or to create a mash-up of Walt Whitman and accounting (in a poem that first appeared in Poet Lore):
This is to certify that I celebrate
myself and sing myself, per the contract,
in conformance with your estimate
of me, and in compliance with best practices.
In his new poems, collected under the title “The Emanation Crunch,” Fried abandons traditional poetic forms for the structures of commercial communications: the business prospectus, the branding strategy statement, the travel brochure—even tweets (from you know Who):
A man or a woman, afraid with any sudden
chance of fire or of man’s death is driven
to cry or to pray after help. Yea, how?
(“Following Him on Twitter”)
In a recent interview with Steven Duesner, published in The Washington Post’s “Express,” Fried explained that he likes to make “different linguistic registers collide, like in plate tectonics, in the hopes that they’ll create a tremor and the tremor itself will be the poetry.” This collection is full of unsettling tremors.
Review: Philip Fried’s Early/Late: New and Selected Poems reviewed by Tim Liardet for The Warwick Review (December 2011, pp. 111-112)
Philip Fried’s New and Selected Poems, launched in Salmon Poetry’s sumptuous livery, spans twenty-three years and constitutes a truly expressive body of work. Since 1988, Fried’s deeply subversive intelligence has produced poems of unsettling originality, un-American perhaps, in their sweep, more European in substance and diction. Fried is in many ways the éminence grise of transatlantic poetry, editing essentially under his own steam the equally original, equally subversive The Manhattan Review for thirty-one years, since 1980. Both this new Selected and the much revered journal prove beyond all doubt what a big heart for poetry he has; what an eye for the power of synthesis, what a will for the breaking down of false boundaries.
His work has always been fired by exemplary politics. This means many things. Firstly, that he is very convincingly at home with the first person plural (…And we seek rest in this thing that is everything, but so little,/where no rest is); secondly, that he clearly feels civic accountability is an organic part of his poetics; and, thirdly, that he is alive to the cut and shift of the world, its risibility in particular, its destructiveness and contradictions in general. This leads him by instinct first to satire, I think, then to a savagely evolved irony:
I regret to inform you that, in the purview of immutable discretion, it has become
necessary to downsize the elect.
It may seem strange that of the great body of humankind some like yourself,
predestined to salvation, should be laid off […]
In the course of the two decades this book spans he has probably become more formal, seeming to imply that the restless artistic energy he is gifted with thrives most upon more compressed forms. By 2009, in Cohort, this leads him to the sonnet in all its paradoxical possibilities. This collection was largely comprised of sonnets and Fried proves the extent to which the form can come to talk easy, subdued at last into colloquy:
This sonnet is ultra-modern, rhetoric-free
during normal use, nor will it drip
with maudlin emotion. Its verbal polish resists
blurring, garbling, incoherency.
It’s hard to do justice to so distinguished a Selected in so few words. Suffice it to say Early/Late: New and Selected Poems comes warmly recommended.
Review: Early/Late: New & Selected Poems reviewed for The Literary Review (Fairleigh Dickinson University, New Jersey)
Wry philosopher, keen observer, funny-serious-fabulous poet, Fried borrows from sources ranging from the public apologies of politicians, to John Calvin, to The New York Review of Books. One poem presents the memo by which the elect find themselves downsized, though Management wishes them “every success” in their “post-salvation existence.” We’re told “God is confused about religion.” Fried even puts words in God’s mouth: “Doctor,” He says in one, “my case is unique,/ humanity has broken out/on me like a scarlet rash….” In realms between and including the Almighty and actuarial tables, Fried speaks every language faithfully and eloquently. Rejoice! Read!
Interview: Philip Fried discusses Early/Late: New & Selected Poems with Stephen M. Deusner of expressnightout.com
Performance reviews and layoffs are decidedly unpoetic. But that's exactly what inspired new verse in Philip Fried's latest collection, "Early/Late".
The New York-based Fried has been combining the language of industry - corporate slogans and lingo - with the words and forms of poetry for decades. His previous book, 2010's "Cohort," collected a series of
postmillennial sonnets that mashed centuries-old phrases and patterns with current concerns.
Prior to his appearance at the Association of Poets & Writers conference and his reading at Politics & Prose, "Express" spoke to Fried about reading his old poems and moving beyond the first-person pronoun.
Philip Fried's Early/Late"Early/Late" combines new poems with those from previous collections.
What were your criteria for deciding which earlier poems to include?
When you write individual poems, you just write what you think and feel at the moment. But when you put together a book, it's a whole different story. I used to think putting together a book was like making sausages: just one after the other of what you'd written previously. I didn't realize that a book was constructed. That applies even more to putting together a whole series of books. I did it intuitively to get a sense of trajectory, so readers could get a sense of where I was moving from and where I was moving to.
Did any of these older poems surprise you when you went back to them?
One thing that surprised me was that sometimes I would think, 'Who wrote this?' And sometimes I would immodestly think, 'This is pretty good.' Sometimes I would think, 'I don't think I could do that now.' I could tell that I was in a certain state of mind, but I could never get back into it and write that poem again. It was a strange confrontation with earlier selves.
What attracts you to the technological and corporate language that runs through your poetry?
At one point I was reading the Russian critic Mikhail Bakhtin, and he writes that one of the things he likes about the novel ... is the multi-vocal quality that you can achieve in a novel, with different voices and registers of language speaking to one another. Then he says - and I think he's quite wrong about this - that poetry is uni-vocal. For him, it's a pure medium in contrast to the mixed medium of the novel. But I think that could be applied to poetry equally well. I like to engage with dirty language - and not in the usual sense of "dirty," but the intractable language that surrounds us: advertising, military jargon, things like that. I like to have different linguistic registers collide, like in plate tectonics, in the hopes that they'll create a tremor and the tremor itself will be the poetry.
That's intriguing, especially considering that poetry is often viewed as an escape from the modern world.
Exactly. I think poetry gets painted into a corner. If the language of
poetry is only supposed to reflect a personal sensibility, then you're just
narrowing and narrowing until you get repetitive.
Written by Express contributor Stephen M. Deusner