These are poems of sheer imagination and beauty. Once I started reading them, I couldn’t stop. Like Russell Edson before him, Jeff Friedman is a fantastic fabulist who draws his readers into a parallel universe where the lines between fantasy and logic disappear, and wonder begins. At once entertaining and wise, witty and insightful, Friedman is one of the finest prose poets writing today.
In Floating Tales Jeff Friedman presides over a strange marriage between the mundane and the surreal—the oneiric logic of an Edson prose poem happily banging its head against the domesticity of the Baudelairean Bly prose poem. That is, to say, these prose poems are highly original. Edson once said that a prose poem, no matter how surrealistic or nutty, should “think well.” What better description for the gems in this collection. I’m not sure what took Friedman so long to find his way to the prose poem, but those of us who write them are glad he finally made the journey.
Late genius of the form Russell Edson stated that prose poetry can create “a beautiful new animal.” Jeff Friedman’s Floating Tales earn that honorific description. These compact, surreal, enlivening tales strip experience down to its most fertile mysteries. In the worlds created here, paradox, the unseen, the uncontrollable, nothingness, unsatisfiable hungers, the absurd, suspended threat, constant transformation and mutation, and power reversals reign supreme. A tongue bullies its owner. A woman teaches a parrot to fly. Puppets revolt. Lot’s wife turns into a pillar of salt and is strapped to the roof of her fleeing family’s Subaru. The ancient, the contemporary and the cartoonish cross pollinate in amazing ways. With restless inventiveness, these tales provide the opposite of closure: they burst open, bloom outward, revealing multiple new ways of relating to so-called reality.