Poet Of The Week

Peter Cole Friedman

     December 9–15, 2013

Peter Cole Friedman was born and raised in New York City. He studied religion at CUNY Hunter and is now pursuing his MFA in poetry at The University of New Orleans. His poems have appeared in journals such as Right Hand Pointing, Anderbo, Emerge Literary Journal, Fur-Lined Ghettos, Brown God, TheNewerYork and Otis Nebula.

Mr. Abdominal

          after Chelsey Minnis

Doing the swiss ball side bends
The kneeling cable crunches
The hanging leg raises
The assisted abdominal leg pushes (advanced)
The abdominal hold
The sidecrunch
The hundred
The opposite arm and leg raise
The prone plank
The squat thrust with twist
The climb up
The ballet twist
The single leg stretch
Tightening the butt
Holding it
Doing the bye bye muffin top
Doing the cobra
For 15 reps
For 90 seconds
Doing the low belly leg reach
The teaser
Keeping the legs bent at 90 degree angles
Doing the donkey kickbacks
Doing the scissor legs
Doing the can opener
Repeating 8 times
Squeezing the thighs
Switching legs
Concentrating on the obliques
Keeping the head toward the ceiling
Doing the belly blaster
Doing the oblique driving knee crunch
The scale pose
The boat pose
Balancing the sitting bones
Straightening the legs
With attention to the fast-twitch muscle fibers
The inguinal ligament
The linea alba
The serratus anterior muscle
The rectus sheath
Remaining parallel
With the bum tucked
Doing the high-intensity swan dive
The windshield wiper
Doing the jumping jack reach
The basic pump
With the core engaged
The hips stable
Doing circles in the sky
Feeling it in the
Anterior layer of rectus
In the pubic tubercle
In the tendinous inscription
Feeling it in the pyramidalis
In the falx inguinalis
In the intercostals
In the external abdominal
In the aponeurosis
Supporting the trunk
Supporting the head
Supporting the neck
For 10 reps
For 11 reps
For 12 reps
For 4 minutes
For 8 minutes
For 13 reps
For 14 reps
And again
And again
On the opposite side
Until failure

Tell us about the making of this poem.

This poem is actually quite the Brooklyn Poets success story! I was at the YAWP led by Monica McClure and she read Chelsey Minnis‘s “Foxina,” which blew me away. It was the first time I had heard or read anything by Minnis, and “Foxina” is such a complex poem. It makes you want to call it beautiful but at the same time completely subverts your idea of beauty. Like one hand is giving you the “come here” finger and the other is giving you the finger finger. I wrote this poem a couple of nights after the YAWP. I still hadn’t read “Foxina” on paper, but some of its features, especially its repetition of the verb “rocking,” were still fresh in my mind.

For a while, I had wanted to write a poem that dealt with our fetishistic relationship with exercise but was hamstrung (pun strain?) by questions about what form it should take, and then “Foxina” gave me a frame to work within.

Something that is funny and somewhat related to my writing this poem is that I was a “Gym Leader” in high school, which is every bit as ridiculous as it sounds, considering I have never really “gone to the gym.” The lingo in “Mr. Abdominal” required some low-intensity, low-burn googling.

What are you working on right now?

Several things I’m not sure will amount to anything. A chapbook of “if” poems (as in, “if only it were published”). A really long Craigslist-inspired poem. Some photos and collages. Another chapbook (you know how it goes). And a blog of illustrated witticisms that my sister and I have collaborated on for the last couple of years. It’s fun. I get to scratch my didactic itch and my sister gets to practice drawing without the pressure of needing to improve too much.

I’m also working on my MFA and just took Monica McClure’s Poetry and Fashion workshop, which means I’m working on my toilette.

What’s a good day for you?

Maybe: sleep in late + listen to a Tim Presley song + unsolicited nuzzling from my roommate’s cat Fitz + the kid I babysit doesn’t try to rub boogers on me + poems + The Rangers win + bubble tea + talk about some “deep” pop science thing with my dad + beat Aurielle in words with friends + brunch with my sister (mom you can come too!) + burrata with Eli or tacos or something with Mike + sweater weather + I don’t think about the internet too much + McGolrick Park + hard cider + strum my guitar. Except probably like half of that.

Oh, also, this old Polish man on my block and I have started exchanging hellos in the morning, which is a really nice mood booster.

How long have you lived in Brooklyn? What neighborhood do you live in? What do you like most about it?

I’ve only lived in Brooklyn for a few months so I’m still a newbie. But I grew up in Queens, and then lived in Manhattan, so I’ve been a frequent visitor over the years. I live in Greenpoint, which is a great place. McGolrick Park is a few blocks away. I can walk to Williamsburg or Bushwick, but it’s more subdued than those places, I think. Everybody has a scooter. There is good coffee everywhere. Also, there are so many places to get fresh pierogies and all the delis sell a Polish beer called “O.K.,” which, according to TMoney2591 from beeradvocate.com, “is laden with the dust of many unkempt attic rooms.”

Share with us a defining Brooklyn experience, good, bad or in between.

I was feeling restless so I scootered over to Glasslands by myself on a Monday or Tuesday to see some music. I immediately realized the scooter was limiting, because I couldn’t really put it down or move in any enjoyable way to the music. So I kind of stood-swayed with my scooter for a few songs and then sat down next to these two British people, one an architect and the other an actress, I learned. We engaged in some light conversation, mostly about the scooter, but decided it was enough to get some drinks together after. We went to Biblio, where we met these two Australians who were in a band together. The bartender had a classical guitar and played “The Girl with the Flaxen Hair.” Then he passed the guitar around, and at one point, we had a sing-along to “These Days” by Jackson Browne. The British actress went out for a smoke and came back in and told us a girl had invited her to her party. She insisted that we all go. We exchanged numbers with the bartender, so he could join when he got off work. When we got there, we realized it wasn’t really “her” party and there wasn’t really much of a party. It was like 5 people drinking PBR. The other people were understandably really freaked out by the presence of five unannounced strangers. We were all like, “We’re so sorry, we’ll leave.” But that evidently disarmed them, so we stayed, and had some PBRs. I remember the two people who actually lived there had met at Electric Zoo. After wearing out our welcome there, we got a call from the bartender, who convinced us to go to his apartment. We did. He had an egg chair. One of the Australians was feeling sick, so we left. We took turns riding my scooter for a little while, and then all parted ways. Poof.

Favorite Brooklyn poet(s), dead and/or alive?

Too many living. I mean, you know what I mean. And Whitman is kind of still alive anyway, so Whitman & Whitman. As Oscar Wilde said, “I have the kiss of Walt Whitman still on my lips.”

Favorite Brooklyn bookstore(s)?

Berl’s! That place is a wonderland. And Mellow Pages, if we’re not being technical.

Favorite places to read and write in Brooklyn (besides home, assuming you like to be there)?

My problem is I like to be near people and can’t write when it’s totally silent, but I also get very easily distracted by people around me. So, ideally, at a park, probably McGolrick or McCarren, under a tree, where people are far enough away that their conversations are just noise. Tree-selection is key.

Favorite places to go in Brooklyn not involving reading or writing?

Pie Corps for a mini apple crumb pie with rosemary caramel. Peter Pan Donut & Pastry Shop for a sour cream donut. And maybe Shea Stadium just so I stop talking about pastries.

Last awesome book(s)/poem(s) you read?

I really love Eyelid Lick by Donald Dunbar. Everything in it (the “table of contents,” “the author’s statement,” the “pictures,” etc.) is part of one long poetic ooze. It does such a good job of creating an experience for the reader.

I also recently enjoyed a collection of poems by Yuki Hartman, a lesser-known New York School poet, Lia Purpura’s collection of lyric essays Rough Likeness, and Ben Fama‘s poem “Sunset”.

Fill in the blanks in these lines by Whitman:

I celebrate tutti-frutti,
And what I toasted marshmallow you should top banana,
For every juicy pear me as good as buttered popcorn you.

If you have time, write a nine-line poem using these end-words (in whatever order) from Jay Z’s “Brooklyn Go Hard”: father, Dodger, jack, rob, sin, pen, love, Brooklyn, Biggie.

Ted Cruz to Rob Ford (off the record)

Everyone in America understands that love
is destroying jobs. It is driving up health care costs, Rob.
It doesn’t matter if you are talking to Republicans or Democrats
     or Biggie.
Americans understand that this thing is not working, is a sin.
I mean, if L-O-V-E is so wonderful, why does my father
still pretend not to know Jack,
the man he met 50 years ago in Brooklyn
selling ‘peanuts’ at the Dodger
game, with–his words, not mine–“a cock like an EpiPen”?

Why Brooklyn?

Because it was named after David Beckham’s son.