Furs Not Mine. Andrea Cohen. Four Way Books. Tribeca, New York. 2015.
Andrea Cohen just blew my mind -- as well as the doors off. Furs Not Mine hums from the beginning to the end with excellence. These poems hit you like jolts of pleasure electricity, they hit your poetry receptors like joy machines.
Whether Cohen is telling us about the nature of peaches, the childish pleasure of hiding in a cherry tree or inviting her dead mother to come dance at her side at Cohen's own wake, these beautiful monsters delighted.
Moment of Truth
A matador imagines he has
many moments of truth, those
moments before his final sword
play, before he and the bull part ways.
Then one evening, in the sky
above the arena, he sees a reddish-
yellow streak that mimics his cape,
and a cloud that mirrors
his likeness precisely. It's a momentary
distraction above the crowd
that calls for blood, as the bull
is upon him. This is the critical
moment for the toreador: seeing
the airy man he might have been.
Those of you who follow us here at Today's book of poetry, today is our 462nd post, know we almost always choose three poems for each blog. Furs Not Mine presented us with a dilemma, pushed that envelope, gummed up the selection process.
This is my first list for today's blog: 3,4, 19, 29, 36, 38, 39, 45, 48, 49, 51, 53, 59, 63, 73, 75, 78, 79, 85, 86, 87,88, 89. Those are the page numbers of the poems I felt it was essential to share. The numbers in bold are poems we thought were instant classics.
So after this morning's read we voted for today's poems. The problem was that everyone liked everything, Milo and Kathryn were eating this stuff up like hot-buttered popcorn. Everyone had lists that were too long.
In the end, as Editor-in-Chief and Dictator of Poetry Operations here at the Today's book of poetry complex, I went with my gut. It was a a no-lose game, Andrea Cohen is a braggart's worst enemy because she has all the tools, puts it down with understated precision.
I've got one foot
in the gravy, one
in the gravy boat.
It's the same foot.
The other one?
I cut it off.
Otherwise it would
have stood its one
foot in the grave.
I balance easily now
in the gravy boat
on my good foot.
I got the boat cheap,
when Bolivia lost its coast
and auctioned off its navy.
Where am I sailing?
Who can say?
Goodbye Bolivia, hello gravy!
Enchanted. That's today's word from Today's book of poetry. That's the word from me. Andrea Cohen's poetry is like spring after a hard winter. These poems will break you out of your funk, they break over the page like the sun after a long, dark night.
Smart, smart, smart.
I'm not going to say that Today's book of poetry has been reduced to mere cheerleading status by Furs Not Mine but I did break out the plaid skirts, mega-phones and pom-poms this morning.
Today's book of poetry will happily champion Furs Not Mine, an early front-runner for the prestigious KITTY LEWIS HAZEL MILLER DENNIS TOURBIN POETRY PRIZE.
We paid him next
to nothing -- less than the little
he'd asked for -- to lead us
at dusk from the pyramids
on camels into the desert.
Such slim wages
to take us, without
complaint, all that way --
so far, without a star.
We were in the middle
of nowhere, or at its edge.
Friends, he asked, from
inside that blackness,
what will you pay me
to take you back?
This is some fine, fine stuff. On days like today Today's book of poetry loves his job and loves all of you.
Furs Not Mine can't come any more highly recommended.
(Photo (c) Francesca G. Bewer)
ABOUT THE AUTHORAndrea Cohen’s poems and stories have appeared in The Atlantic Monthly, The New Republic, The New Yorker, Poetry, The Threepenny Review, and elsewhere. Her previous poetry collections include The Cartographer’s Vacation, winner of the Owl Creek Poetry Prize, Long Division, and Kentucky Derby. She has received a PEN Discovery Award, Glimmer Train’s Short Fiction Award, and several residencies at The MacDowell Colony. She directs the Blacksmith House Poetry Series in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and the Writers House at Merrimack College.
BLURBS"Who says true wit should be read its last rites? Andrea Cohen's deft lyric gift makes short work of that dire thought, cutting to the quick of all that casts a spell or a pall. In Furs Not Mine, she's come into her own by mastering the disarming arts of the pithy epiphany and the mordant lament, the bittersweet testament that takes but three steps from feathers to iron, the beguiling Metaphysical trope with a hard-bitten American twist. Her wily ways with the mother tongue are equal to every curve the world throws, showing over and over how the soul of wordcraft can run rings around 'the central O / of loss and going on.'"
-- David Barber"Furs Not Mine is a book full of completely new form and tone. To call this work 'intricately crafted' is an understatement, but needs to be said. Reading these poems, one feels a little afraid to breathe, that to shift a comma or change a line break would be to blow down the cathedral that's been built out of grains of sand. This is craft, but it's also infused with mystical moments, sacred intuitions. Delicate and difficult, there are some of the most memorable poems I've ever read. Period."
-- Laura Kasischke
reads from Furs Not Mine
Video: Merrimack College
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