March 16-22, 2006
Arts : ArtpicksWell Versed in Philly
We keep getting into Daisy Fried's poems. Even during her daily routine in Northampton, Mass., where she's nearly halfway through a residency at Smith College, she finds Philadelphia rhythms in her writing. The city's the setting for some of the most memorable poems in her second collection, My Brother Is Getting Arrested Again (University of Pittsburgh). She's a keen observer, credibly inhabitinghowever brieflybodies as different as the pregnant 14-year-old in "Jubilate South Philly: City 14" and the abandoned girlfriend of "Stealing from Lehigh Dairy."
Her characters are mean-spirited, funny, oblivious and desperate, all at once. That sense of complication works best when she explores family dynamics in pieces like "Shooting Kinesha," "Aunt Leah, Aunt Sophie and the Negro Painter" and "My Brother Is Getting Arrested Again." But just because Fried writes in the first person, don't think you'll find her in her free verse.
"Biography has nothing to do with it, actually," she says. "People think that if you say 'I' in poems, you're telling the truth about yourself, about what really happened. Poems are constructions. My poems are in some sense about my life. They're about the things I care about and the things I think about and the things that I see. But I'm not trying to tell people about myself. It's not like memoir, where you're supposedly telling things that really happened to you."
The former City Paper staff writer says working as a journalist gave her a window into other lives and the discipline to write every day. But there's a key difference: "I write poems whether or not somebody's paying me to do it," says Fried, who plans to use her 2006 Guggenheim grant to live and write here full time once her residency ends. "I only write articles if I have an assignment."
Daisy Fried reads Wed., March 22, 7 p.m., Barnes & Noble, 1805 Walnut St., 215-665-0716.