Reviews and Interviews
Read Toby Altman’s review of the book at Iowa Review.
Read the book’s opening poem, “Birdsong trumps dumptruck,” on Verse Daily (August 2, 2019).
Read this Chicago Review of Books piece, “9 Contemporary Poets on Craft and Inspiration.”
Read this interview Nightboat Books’ blog conducted, “Fred Schmalz’s Ekphrasis of Proximity.”
About the book
“In his debut poetry collection, Fred Schmalz transforms encounters—with art and architecture, friends and strangers, past and future—into irreverent, musical meditations on art-making, daily life, love, and mortality. Through a kaleidoscope of speech fragments, elisions, leaps, and wordplay, the poems invoke rich sensory and emotional perspectives.”
“What makes this book so affecting are its layers. Fred Schmalz has drawn a world in cross-section and to scale, so that we, as readers, can see (and feel) how experience is created.
It isn’t necessary to distinguish between elegy and ode here. Rather, feeling and thought are cast clearly enough to reveal their common bedrock: wonder.
This wonder is often ekphrastic. Almost as often it rises out of common events in everyday life, the infra-ordinary. And it persists.
Action in the Orchards courses through the natural history of metaphoric language, through the details of human emotion, and through time.
The poet’s steady attention to perception and to sound and to rhythm becomes a way of recording the history of mind and body, and then he engraves these ‘little stars of the impossible’ so that the transient is brought closer to permanence.”
“Action in the Orchards asks what it means to be an artist. And the answer itself is in action: the action of attentiveness to the art that most engages us. The action of experiencing art not as a critic but as a maker. Through observation, through intimacy, and through embodiment, Fred Schmalz shapes a poetics of engagement, a poetics that rejects solipsism and isolationism, a poetics that seeks to ‘trap the sky in its present state’; a poetics of documentation and absorption, where care and cognizance are transformed bythe pulsing rhythm of how pain enters, of how language makes life out of loss.”
“The orchards are plural; the action is thought. Museums are orchards; perception is action. Books are orchards; the action is memory. In the orchards of meeting friends for lunch, or biking in the rain, or moving from the Midwest to Europe and back again, the action is that of the language-body always just a little lost to awareness—even as awareness pierces vividly. ‘Terminal’ rhymes with ‘luminous,’ and a slapstick silence plays in the gaps between places, objects, gestures, tonalities: ‘the same and not the same // each time permanent strange.’”