In Lily is Leaving: Poems by Leslie A. Fried, the reader travels by train across Texas flatlands with the poet as she grieves for her lost lover, inhales the “spicy scent of leaves smoldering” as she recalls her beloved mother, walks in late summer along Oregon cow paths to search for the “dangerous opulence” of blackberries, considers the intelligence of crows, makes a feeble attempt to explain the fragility of life to her granddaughter, and mourns the loss of those innocents beaten down by history. All of this she does in seven chapters with titles such as Laws of Attraction; How and Why; and Shipwreck and Resurrection — using language that curls the ear, wracks the heart and satisfies the mind.
Leslie Fried is an archeologist of the soul, digging through the fractured histories of ancestors, and her own past with parents, lovers and sons, to describe the forces that mold our characters and haunt our dreams. She uses her acute powers of observation, and vivid images and metaphors, to relate both the depths of trauma and the heights of delight. She is particularly adept at revealing the deceitfulness we all use to bind others to ourselves and to make sense of our histories. In Leslie’s poetic world, time is not linear, love covers a multitude of pains and disappointments, and grace is still possible.
—Tonja Woelber, author of the poetry collections Glacier Blue (2016) and Tundra Songs (2017).
In her debut collection, Lily is Leaving, Leslie Fried writes “on the train my shadow is my letter of introduction.” These poems are marked by their sensitivity to lives in transit, lives that need to journey in order to prosper, and, at times, to simply survive. When the speaker finds shelter, it’s often outwardly flimsy — “our house is tiny / a chicken coop once /a crazy quilt now /of wood and windows /under the great fir” — but Fried vividly shows us how familial bonds deepen and intimacy flourishes in such idiosyncratic spaces. Indeed, the author delights in all invitations, large or small, that the world extends. And her poems make us at home in that world, as if we, too, are invited to live fully. For instance, she accepts an “Invitation to an Intimate Dinner Room 43, Airport Way South,” and dines at “a small square table / covered in butcher paper /folded and taped” an experience that could have passed her by, had she let it. This is a narrator who takes her knocks at times because, fundamentally, she’s in cahoots with abundance. When Fried tells us “I am planted and sprouting /in luminous air,” we believe her.
—Deborah Woodard, author of Borrowed Tales
Leslie Fried’s debut collection offers an elegance in language illuminating carefully crafted poems that invite me to read and re-read lines, verses, and whole poems as I discover fresh angles, peepholes and circumstances to experience: ardor, family, history, loss, intimacy, death; to. . .know hard love as a trick of the trail. . .Here is a lively edginess of surprises along with Fried’s 100 descriptions of place, each so vivid you might remember them later as if you had physically been there. It is a gift. Her gift is extended by her own illustrations. Delicate and impish special treats. For my own pleasure, I read the poems aloud to myself, and discover more heart, more about being alive as. . .the earth is breathing stories. . .
—Carol Levin, author of Stunned by Velocity (2012), Confident Music Would Fly Us to Paradise (2014), and An Undercurrent of Jitters (2018).… Read More