93 pages paperback, $14.95
Carnegie-Mellon University Press, 2007
ISBN: 0-88748-460-3; 9-780887-484605
Jeff Friedman has a wide eye and keen ear, a tender touch, a nose for the absurdity of families and the fragrance of disaster, and a heart for the way everyday life melts into myth. There is an elegance and precision in these (mostly) elegiac poems, lifting them from the grit of memory, placing them on the ledge of grace.
In Jeff Friedman’s narrative poems, the world of our fathers deepens into meaning. How we lived and loved and managed to flourish in 20th century America despite fear, sadness and spiritual hunger assumes Old Testament clarity. Friedman’s black threads bind Noah to the great migration, the Golem to the suburbs, and Cain and Abel to the generation that embraced rock’n’roll. Modest and wise, these poems bless both our New World domesticity and our still raging restlessness.
“It is scarcely an exaggeration to say that Jeff Friedman is a master ventriloquist and Black Threads, his fourth collection of poetry, an anthology of entwined yet disharmonic voices. Many poems in Black Threads are from the perspectives of mythic figures, family members and strays of all kinds. These poems entrust themselves to the reader like confidences whispered in a willing ear. In describing impediments impossible for people to overcome — the entropy they endure and call their lives — Friedman displays a political consciousness that takes as its subject those who live among “the alien corn” (as in the poem “Miriam”), the exiles who can’t speak the native tongue longing for home. Friedman’s poetry gives them voice.”
—Celia Bland, Valparaiso Poetry Review
The success of Friedman’s poetics derives from the ability of language to not merely represent but embody the stories it tells. While this implies that words are transparent to the world—a notion unpopular with linguists—this has always been the inescapable stance of poetry, endorsed by centuries of reader response. Like Ashbery and some of the other strong poets of our era, Friedman offers a model of secular redemption from the burdens of family, self, and religion through appreciation of the finely textured ecology of the material and social world.
—William Doreski, Home Planet News
The old stories and traditions give weight and color…to these tales of growing up and living in this modern world. They add layers of meaning and history….In a state that boasts many fine poets, Jeff Friedman distinguishes himself with old-soul voice, his ability to incorporate religious traditions without seeming particularly religious, and his amazing range.
—Rebecca Rule, Concord Monitor
Black threads weave like dark music through the new poems in Jeff Friedman’s new collection, the fourth in his signature lyrical narrative mode. Readers looking for emotional nourishment will find plenty of sustenance in this collection. These are clean- lined, accessible plain-language poems; earthy, unpretentious and deeply human.
—Irene Willis, Alehouse Review
Friedman…has a scorching sense of humor and can be gleefully irreverent when dealing with his religious upbringing…but when Friedman works the litany, he is at his best, especially in dynamic poems like “Memorial” and “The Long Heat Wave.”
—Peter Makuck, Hudson Review