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New Hampshire Poet Showcase
From NH Poet Laureate, Walter E. Butts

At my request, the NH Arts Council is providing me with a link to the poet laureate page on their website in order that I may continue to showcase poems by a number of New Hampshire Poets. The poets will be by my invitation only, but I plan to include those who are seriously working at their craft from many areas of the state.

Featured Poet: Jeff Friedman, West Lebanon

Jeff FriedmanJeff Friedman is the author of five collections of poetry: Working in Flour (Carnegie Mellon Press in 2011), Black Threads (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2007), Taking Down the Angel (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2003), Scattering the Ashes (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 1998), and The Record-Breaking Heat Wave (BkMk Press-University of Missouri-Kansas City, 1986). His poems, mini stories and translations have appeared in American Poetry Review, Poetry, 5 AM, New England Review, Poetry International, Quick Fiction, North American Review, Ontario Review, Antioch Review, Cardinal Points, Agni Online, Boulevard, The 2River View, Cortland Review, Prairie Schooner, and The New Republic. He has been featured on Poetry Daily and Verse Daily. He has won two fellowships from the New Hampshire State Arts Council, the Editor's Prize from The Missouri Review, and the Milton Dorfman Poetry Prize. He has had residencies at the MacDowell Colony, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts the Vermont Studio Center and Yaddo. In 2003 he was the Distinguished Poet-In-Residence in the M.F.A. program at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. For seven years, he was a faculty member in the MFA Program in Poetry at New England College. His book of translations, Two Gardens: Modern Hebrew Poems of the Bible, was accepted for publication by Wolfson Press. A contributing editor to Natural Bridge, he is at work on a collection of mini stories, parables and other prose pieces. He is also collaborating with the poet Dzvinia Orlowski on a translation project. He teaches at Keene State College and lives in West Lebanon with the painter Colleen Randall and their dog Bekka.

Statement about the poem “I Did It” from Working in Flour

One morning I decided to write a poem about all the things I do that annoy my friends and family, for example, taking free samples, asking to taste different varieties of wine before ordering a glass of wine, asking the waiter or waitress if I can order something different from what’s listed on the menu, sticking labels from groceries in funny places, turning everything into a negotiation. While visiting with friends at Burdick’s Café in Walpole, I often snag a few free chocolate samples‑or maybe more than a few—from the chocolate shop, and I know that disturbs some people so I decided to begin my poem at Burdick’s. Then once I said and heard the refrain “I did it,” I had a rhythm going, which carried the poem forward in a single burst of energy.  I love the idea of someone owning his faults and weaknesses with such strength that his confession becomes more like boasting than apologizing. The images grew larger and more exaggerated as the poem moved down the page. And then before I knew it, I realized I was writing a love poem and that my wife, the painter Colleen Randall, was the implicit audience for what was being said.

I Did It

I took all the free samples
at the chocolate shop
even though the lady
behind the counter frowned
after my first handful
and tried to wrest
the basket from my grip. I walked out
without buying a single chocolate,
though I had sat there for hours
sipping hot water through a straw.
I know what you think: I give Jews
a bad name, even though I’m small
and furry like a nice pet,
except for the hackles
and jagged teeth,
which sometimes wound my lips.
At the diner I asked so many
questions about the dinner specials
the waitress never came back to our table
and I haggled with a spider
over the cost of a fly
for so many hours he dropped
from exhaustion, breaking
into tears. And I demolished
a whole chicken, but didn’t
empty the bones
from the plate in the fridge.
I did it: I broke a seal,
stuck the label on the sink,
called you sweetie
when I meant something else.
No, this was not shame
or guilt. It was not
the usual desire to punish. I did it
quick as a passing thought.
The dog couldn’t believe
my audacity, and howled
for help. The canary wrote
a letter to our congressman,
complaining about the state
of the union, spitting out seeds
as she spoke. I left the seat up,
a trail of yellow drips,
my piss sweet as a valentine
burning the tiles.


For more information about Jeff Friedman visit:

Photo by Dzvinia Orlowsky





Click here for a list of previous Poet Showcases

Last updated: February 16, 2011

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