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This review is taken from PN Review 215, Volume 40 Number 3, January - February 2014.

DAISY FRIED, Women's Poetry: Poems and Advice (University of Pittsburgh Press) US$15.95
I have one thousand words to register something crisp and comprehensive about Daisy Fried's third book Women's Poetry: Poems and Advice, but could easily - irresponsibly, happily - use up the word count on 'Torment', the seven-page lead-off poem. Maybe you remember it from Poetry magazine, where it ran a few years back. 'Torment' takes place on the Dinky, 'the one-car commuter train connecting / Princeton to the New York line'. A pregnant Fried is returning home from an interview for a teaching job she doesn't want. She's also eavesdropping on a pair of her students, Brianna and Justin, who just happen to be sharing the same compartment, and who themselves have just interviewed - for work in the Republican-friendly financial sector. ('Elephants on it' is what Fried says about Justin's tie.) Eventually, they notice Fried. 'Look, Just,' says Brianna. 'It's Professor.'
Like the train, the poem covers lots of ground: 9/11, the economy, the state of higher education, kids these days. In paraphrase, it sounds overly plotted, steaming towards a point; in theory, it should go off the rails. A poem by a creative writing prof about her students and, more broadly, the state of the nation? Convenient parallelism that pits a pregnant woman against privileged children, poetry against business, left against right? The ripple and snap of red flags should by rights drown out Fried's lines. But 'Torment' is one of the best American poems I've read in years - and the best poem about the MFA Industrial Complex since 'An Autumnal Sketch', by August Kleinzahler, a key influence on Fried. ...
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