The poems in What Ridiculous Things We Could Ask of Each Other comb through the rubble of everyday life in search of the shards of beauty and hope that might still be found there. At the same time, these poems struggle to conceive of the beautiful and the hopeful in some way that can escape the purely naive. They confront loss and wrong, but because “Elegy / is stupid, if you can avoid it,” they seek, so much as is possible, not to offer consolation in exchange for what ought not to have happened in the first place. If making the world right with itself would be simultaneously the simplest and the most difficult thing, these poems try to imagine the moment right before that change would become possible and try to imagine the questions we’d be confronted with then, in hope of opening the possibility of imagining the answers.
Jeffrey Schultz’s stunning debut collection is filled with danger, omen, and fire—as appropriate to a book with an ode “To the Unexploded H-Bomb Lost in Tidal Mud off the Coast of Savannah, Georgia.” The poems include “J.,” a character who carves a path between John Berryman’s Huffy Henry and Ernesto Trejo’s E.—a soul set loose, unmoored even, who says “The World’s Not as It Should Be” but also revels in modern life and its detritus, whether that’s “the soul as rooms for rent,” the last pay phone, or “your blog.” Schultz’s brilliant poetic debut embraces the world while lamenting it, singing of not just What Ridiculous Things We Could Ask of Each Other
but answering in form and music, a haunting hymn in the round.
—Kevin Young, author of Book of Hours
In this debut collection, Jeffrey Schultz has created a deceptively genial volume of poems from a sublimely caustic vision of our world. It reads like a postindustrial soul's progress through the wreckage of our American civilization, full of encounters with the Molochs of false consciousness and preyed upon by Erinyes of the digital universe. His poems are minor epics and apocalyptic satires of late high capitalism and its punishing blows to the spirit. For in each of these itineraries through the micropurgatories of daily life, Schultz details what Marx described as the assaultive production of phantom labor power feasting away on love's body. Sybaritic as Bukowski, yet blessed with an intellect and refined sensibility all his own, Schultz is a hard-boiled and noirish romantic, disciplined in craft, strophic in his thinking, and startlingly musical and inventive in his rhetoric. Yet his is not only an achievement of style but of vision.
—Garrett Hongo, author of Coral Road
[The author] shows a rare gift for finding the horror and the humor underpinning the everyday. . . . That’s what makes What Ridiculous Things We Could Ask of Each Other
one of the most moving books I’ve read in years: with tenderness, anger, and pathos, Schultz explores our impossibly troubled relationship with the Self and the world
—J. G. McClure, Colorado Review
[Schultz's] pleas remind us that although our union hasn’t yet become more complete, more ideal, we must keep at our pursuit for perfection, no matter how long it may take. We might be frustrated and lose hope at times, but this voice, this book, has us remember our larger truth: our better angels are still here to do their work.
—Michael Levin, American Microreviews & Interviews
These poems contain possibilities and observations, askings and responses. They gesture toward infinite moments of requests and multiplicities of answers. . . . Sometimes the unexpectedly beautiful is sudden and unavoidable. But even then we have to acknowledge that beauty and progressions don’t make up for what has gone wrong in the world. . . . Even among horrors, Schultz seems to be saying with these poems, a soul’s joys are absurd and implacable.
—Katelyn Kenderish, Bellingham Review