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Gabriel Fried opens his most recent collection The Children Are Reading with these lines: “Where have the children gone this time? / There they are, behind the house, / standing in a cautious arc / around the flowers we warned them about.” The Children Are Reading inhabits childhood spaces, physical and imaginative, on either side of the emergence of adult awareness, desires, and anxieties—which isn’t to say desires and anxieties don’t exist on the childhood end of the spectrum. In many ways, those are more emphatic, less mitigated in the poems, unconstrained by the delusions and rationalizations of adulthood. The poems are at once bounding toward, admiring of, and anxious about those childhood spaces, sliding back and forth along the continuum of childhood/adulthood on which fears of imaginative spaces crystallize and fluctuate. It would be inaccurate to think of adulthood as the place where wisdom pools in these poems, though it’s in adulthood that some of the fears are reconceived and articulated. Fried shows us that there are powers and wisdoms held in childhood that are lost in adulthood, even with its increased autonomy of one sort or another.
“School-Night out in a Venn Diagram” from The Children Are Reading:
“I know of no contemporary poet who captures the mystery of childhood with as much accuracy, force, and empathy as Gabriel Fried. Like an undertow, The Children Are Reading pulls us back into childhood’s ecstatic disquiet… I hear Marilynne Robinson’s spiritual questioning here, and Frost’s burnished dread….” — Catherine Barnett
“…In these clear, mysterious poems, Gabriel Fried beautifully conjures the myriad ways we imagine our kids will come to harm, the strangers they are to us, and the quicksand of childhood that mires some souls.” — Susan Wheeler
“If you have any doubt about the ominousness of childhood—its fundamental, and often terrifying mysteries—read Gabriel Fried’s The Children Are Reading. Fried ambles through the children’s mythic landscape, which they have inherited from the adults who love them, to produce this haunting meditation….” — Ross Gay
“. . . In this way, a book that might have been saccharine or banal becomes as multilayered as the finest fables, stories that are simultaneously about innocence, illusion, and its loss, and the power of storytelling itself. . . .” — Publishers Weekly
“…Verdict: Fried’s sophomore offering marks him as a poet on the rise, an important and individual voice. For all readers of contemporary poetry.” Full review available from Library Journal.
“… The Children Are Reading works masterfully to create simultaneous worlds of seeing, a new constructed kind of imagination that feels truer than what we had before…” —Kimberly Grey at On the Seawall: A Book Review Read the full review here.
“…Fried brilliantly presents parenthood as the experience of inhabiting multiple childhoods, one’s own and that of one’s children, at once.” Read the full review.
“…Whether speaking as a child, or as a parent or other adult, the sadness, longing, wanderlust, and wonder in these poems is conveyed with great power, thanks to Fried’s exquisite control of line and diction….” Read the full review.