Reviews & Commentary
You’ve lost everything, my enemy said. No, I answered, I still have you, Jeff Friedman writes in his inspired new collection of prose poems and micros, Ashes in Paradise. His fabulist inventions, biblical retellings, lyrical improvisations, and contemporary mini tales brilliantly depict the deep sorrows and absurd tragedies of these dark times. In Ashes in Paradise, a monster who looks like everyone else says to a monster hunter, “If you believe in monsters, perhaps you are a monster.” The cops shoot a boy so many times that he vanishes, and “All they can see are the holes.” A married couple purchases a tube of orgasms from Amazon only to watch the orgasms turn into bubbles popping above them. And a woman gives birth to herself and tells her husband she needs “a break and some new clothes.” Surreal and darkly humorous, the prose poems and stories in this collection glow with the intensity of heaven—and hell.
Jeff Friedman shows us the flexibility, stamina, and hilarity of the prose poem in his latest book Ashes in Paradise. Fabulist renditions of the political horror and unease of our times (the pandemic, police violence, political unrest) are set against wry, revisionist Biblical tales and neo-surreal domestic dramas (discounted orgasms delivered by Amazon Prime)…. he brilliantly deflects our world’s terror back onto the world and we, as readers, see ourselves and laugh an uneasy laugh.
—Denise Duhamel, author of Second Story and Queen for a Day: New and Selected Poems
… In these short (but in no way slight) poetic surrealist tales we encounter: puppets that go hunting, an underwater beggar, a man who eats a piece of a star, a couple who order orgasms on Amazon, a chair that growls … With an absurdist’s wise irony Friedman makes good sense of what undergirds our very real precepts of what guides us, what trips us up, and what along with us, has its grip on the wheel.
—Robert Scotellaro, author of God in a Can and Bad Motel
Ashes in Paradise revolves around themes of otherness, hope and loss: with recurring holes, monsters, masks, lovers, avocadoes, animals and dreams, a father and mother, sister and brother. Stars and angels, vampires, spots, chairs, a coyote. A lover giving birth to herself. Jeff Friedman’s prose is magical yet real, worldly and otherworldly. This book is a planet of its own. Wonderful, original, and lovely.
—Kim Chinquee, author of Oh Baby and Wetsuit