In the latest installment of our Recommended Reads series, assistant professor Michael Meyerhofer recommends Plum(b) by Kim Triedman.

There are certain things I tend to repeat so often, my students probably want to take those Little Debbie snack cakes I sometimes toss around the room and throw them back at my head.  One of those phrases (“Art should be entertaining, regardless of subject matter”) is pretty obvious, but I think that phrase can very easily get us into trouble unless it’s matched with another one: “Entertainment alone probably isn’t adequate justification.”  Put another way, it seems to me (hear that? Yeah, that’s me scrabbling up on my soapbox again) that the best art is the stuff that uses humor, creative leaps, or even shock value for some purpose beyond simply getting the reader to raise her/his eyebrow.  In other words, getting (and keeping) your audience’s attention is critical, but what’s the point of getting an audience’s attention if you don’t have anything to say?

By these admittedly vague and totally subjective standards, though, Kim Triedman is definitely on my Cool List.

Full disclosure: awhile back, as the Poetry Editor for Atticus Review, I selected Kim Triedman’s work for one of our Poetry Features. This was hardly a personal favor, though; while Triedman is no stranger to the biz, I had not heard of her yet, nor had I ever read her work before.  But I was immediately impressed.  And afterwards, when I was invited to read and “blurb” her first book-length collection, Plum(b), I couldn’t agree fast enough.

Triedman’s poems (many of them darkly funny) rather deftly navigate that tightrope between lyrical experimentation and emotional resonance.  Put more succinctly, they’re deep and fun to read!  To quote… well, me…  “What I love most about these poems is their uncanny range–their ability to be lyrical and almost pastoral one instant, darkly comedic the next. One never gets the feeling that Triedman is just engaging in meaningless acrobatics, though; these poems are sincere as sunrise or a drop of blood, full of intense and shining purpose, and to see through them is like remembering all at once that you have eyes.”

To show what I mean about range, look at these lines from “Chaos Theory”: “Sometimes there are tears, but there are / copper pennies, too, and glasses of milk…”  Or from a little later in the same poem: “I have watched men starve along the way, / half lost, and then devour themselves / like serpents. You will see.”  The imaginative and stylistic leaps exemplified in Triedman’s work remind me a little of Zen koans (maybe because I’m teaching a Zen poetry class right now) in that they seem to achieve a kind of magic by pulling the usually regimented, logical brain in two contradictory directions at the same time.

Here’s another, longer example, this time from the poem, Harbor:

Imagine the house, the light

in the window—

honeyed, pulpy, weeping

like a womb.

I am there, if you like:

I am the woman in the

broth. Stir me,

I will feel it. Take me

to your mouth. Imagine me

over and over again—

In the hands of another poet, the playful eroticism of that second quoted stanza might seem at first to clash with the more subtle tone of the previous stanza, yet Triedman manages to foreshadow her shifts (without consciously spoiling the surprise) by paying very close attention to sound.  The assonance of the first quoted stanza (all those O sounds) sets the stage while still demonstrating Triedman’s ability to shift tones without losing her reader.  In fact, it seems like her shifts—which definitely constitute a risk—end up paying off in spades through their sheer unexpectedness married to careful, artistic cohesion.

So, yeah.  Kim Triedman.  Check her out.

For more information this author, see her website here.

Triedman, Kim. Plum(b). Charlotte: Main Street Rag, 2013. Print.