In The Bright Field of Everything, Deborah Fries builds upon the long-line, lyric narrative style of her first volume of poetry, Various Modes of Departure, to address familiar themes of place, love, mortality and modern life. Place plays a major role in this collection: from the ennui of a Massachusetts suburb and the transience of a town in shale country to the fresh joy found on a Minnesota hiking trail, Fries nurtures a sensibility shaped by surroundings. Love, however, is most often out of place or ill-timed in this second book, where dolphins shape-shift their way into women’s beds, bucks drive does into oncoming traffic and men are as habituated as elephants. Love and loved ones are both constant and ephemeral in these poems, as the body becomes less reliable, friends are lost and yet, as in the field of everything, they remain with us.
Praise for The Bright Field of Everything
Despite statements to the contrary, we want poetry to change the world, to change us. Here, in The Bright Field of Everything, we sense the world shift from how it is apprehended to how it is. Deborah Fries is a seer. She reports from the center in a language of remarkable command, stunning beauty, and brilliant accuracy. —Leonard Gontarek
Deborah Fries The Bright Field of Everything overflows with almost unbearably vivid poems that open us up anew to the world we live in. Behold cancer, sex, roadkill, or Philadelphia life. Every rift is packed with the telling of life beloved and ironic, full of ecstatic skepticism. The field of everything is here, very bright, with bite and savor. —John Timpane
If Deborah Fries’s first book, Various Modes of Departure, is an abduction—where readers are taken to a place of memories and hard stories finely documented—then The Bright Field of Everything is a return. Though the shape and station of our return have changed, we reside in a “terrain that can be inhabited or waded through without seeing.” Through rich and beguiling lyrics the poet deciphers body, place, science, and the narrative that holds us all together, what she calls “the sweet stratus of look up.” Look up after each poem as you wade into the words and let them hold you, then settle back in for your return. You’ll find it’s a most welcome return, altering, with a light “sizzling like uranium glass” and “everywhere this mucky, sweet Yes.”—Simmons B. Buntin
Excerpt from The Bright Field of Everything
Marie in America
She was bone-sick when she arrived, sea-tired,
bandy-legged, skin blanched by the voyage
and wilted marro, too young to be paper white,
unable to attend even the easiest receptions.
Something must be wrong, reporters wrote,
their bets on radium, the gram they said she carried
everywhere, like Freud’s cocaine or the Heart of Mary.
They were right, of course. Her thin blood no match
for a somber itinerary—honorary doctorates, compulsory
teas and train rides. But for each cancellation,
pillowed retreat from pressing crowds, she mined
the continent for a true tonic to recharge her constitution,
shock joy into that small, irradiated body: Pittsburgh
radium refinery tour, women’s colleges, howling Niagara,
star-punched nights on the south rim spent at El Tovar—
juniper winds, wild sheep, endless Arizona wrapping
her in its golden canyon, light sizzling like uranium glass.
Then, the alchemy of grace: rest for tingling hands beneath
hotel sheets, coiled, as if waiting to crack open earth’s
friable magic, as if everything in America was softly glowing.