What Ridiculous Things We Could Ask of Each Other

Poems by Jeffrey Schultz
Selected by Kevin Young

Poems exploring the consequences of our choices, possibilities of change, and how we come to regret things we could avoid


“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​

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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.

The National Poetry Series

Page count: 88 pp.
Trim size: 5.5 x 8.5


List price: $16.95

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Jeffrey Schultz’s poems have appeared in Boston Review, Indiana Review, Missouri Review, Prairie Schooner, Poetry, and elsewhere and have been featured on the PBS Newshour’s Art Beat and Poetry Daily. Schultz has received the “Discovery”/Boston Review prize and a Ruth Lilly Fellowship from the Poetry Foundation. He lives in Los Angeles and teaches at Pepperdine University.