The poems in Furs Not Mine display Andrea Cohen’s masterful craft and lyricism and her keen wit. In Cohen’s elegiac shoals, we see how “Great griefs are antidotes / for lesser sorrows,” and in her strange, surprising narratives, we glimpse a man darting into traffic for a hubcap, “meaning to build his dream / vehicle from scrap.” These poems, too, have the feel of dreamy constructions, in which bliss “from a distance, can look like pain.” That’s the magic of this collection: it holds loss and promise in the same image––sometimes even the same word.
“Breaking and Entering,” from Furs Not Mine:
The notion of the home
invasion is mostly myth.
Mostly we leave
ourselves unlocked, say
to a stranger: honey,
come on in.
Mostly the home
invasion is an inside
job: your interiors
get ravaged and pointing
a finger, you
mean to seek
damages. I left
the window open,
told the guard
dogs to roll over.
He pinched my last
candlesticks. If he’d
asked, I’d have filled
them with fire, I’d
have packed his candle-
lit supper to go, for the long,
sorry night he was entering.
“Who says true wit should be read its last rites? Andrea Cohen’s deft lyric gift makes short work of that dire thought, cutting to the quick of all that casts a spell or a pall. In Furs Not Mine, she’s come into her own by mastering the disarming arts of the pithy epiphany and the mordant lament, the bittersweet testament that takes but three steps from feathers to iron, the beguiling Metaphysical trope with a hard-bitten American twist. Her wily ways with the mother tongue are equal to every curve the world throws, showing over and over how the soul of wordcraft can run rings around ‘the central O / of loss and going on.'” – David Barber
“Furs Not Mine is a book full of completely new form and tone. To call this work ‘intricately crafted’ is an understatement, but needs to be said. Reading these poems, one feels a little afraid to breathe, that to shift a comma or change a line break would be to blow down the cathedral that’s been built out of grains of sand. This is craft, but it’s also infused with mystical moments, sacred intuitions. Delicate and difficult, there are some of the most memorable poems I’ve ever read. Period.” – Laura Kasischke
“One is reminded of Frost’s admonition, ‘no tears in the writer, no tears in the reader,’ and one thinks, further, ‘no surprise for the writer, no surprise for the reader.’ Whether that surprise existed for the poet herself is no matter—even if the threads of her work are carefully plotted out, they remain Cohen’s great gift to her reader.” Read the full review.
“Poems as polished as those by Andrea Cohen give up their secrets very slowly. Furs Not Mine, Cohen’s newest collection encourages her readers to enter its confines with enameled logic and diamond-edged imagery. Once inside one finds a sense of loss, a Siberian coldness, and a ghostly hunger for a way out. Escape, however, may not be in the cards. The chilliness continues even after the book’s completion and Cohen’s well-wrought lines ebb away into mnemonic limbo.” Read the full review.
“Through their intimate haunting, Cohen’s poems supplement loss by confronting the greatest generators of death: war, strife, famine. Poems such as ‘Bomb,’ about the reactions of mothers to their sons’ deaths. Poems such as ‘Explanation (Hiroshima),’ about guarding the truth of the past and memory. Through its impressive juxtaposition, this collection manages to apply what is personal to what is worldly, to look at the personal and see just a beginning.” Read the full review.
“Andrea Cohen’s ‘Furs Not Mine’ showcases a magician of a different sort. Writing about her mother’s death, it is not so much her mother Cohen wrangles onto the page but, perhaps more impressively, the amorphous weight of grief itself. Her tools for this are unexpected: sly humor, a touch of surrealism, and deceptively simple language, which again and again transform into elegies staggering in their impact. At first, I was obsessed with how she did it, but with a performance this masterful, by the end I was simply thankful to have witnessed it.”
“In the compressions of Furs Not Mine, each word punches above its weight. Rhyme stabilizes, humor works its through-line; the poem emerges from its pressures terse and tight. Cohen creates an idiom equal to the life-changing grief she’s come to report. It’s not like anyone else’s…” Read the full review.
“…Cohen’s acerbic wit leavens her poems and refreshes a subject with which every poet grapples—loss. Some of these short meditations read like Buddhist koans and may remind readers of the poems of Jane Hirshfield….” Read the full review.