Black Lawrence Press



While writing Swerve, Bruce Cohen decided to avoid addressing a particular audience. That is, not an audience of poetry readers. “I just wanted to talk intimately to myself, my family, and my friends,” he says. As a natural consequence, while building these poems Cohen struck upon an essentially authentic voice. With his guard down, with his most intimate familiars as his only audience, he was able to write with startling honesty. The brilliance of these poems is the mixture of that honesty with humor, with sentimentality, and sometimes with horror. In these poems you will find a long-lined American surrealistic sensibility. There is new discovery of language here, playfulness with both vernacular and formal diction. Simply put, you’re going to love this book.


  • "If you were to splice the DNAs of Walter Mitty and Salvador Dali, or Cuisinart together the collected works of Louis Simpson and Dean Young, you might get the poems of Bruce Cohen. His suburban speakers are often cleaning the garage or steaming off wallpaper in the bedroom, but secretly they are involved in criminal adventures of the imagination, in subtle and hilarious cultural critique, in fantasies of quiet desperation. These are rampages of irony, tenderness and wit, furnished with the verbal wizardry and bravado of a quiet maniac—as in 'Hotel Chain,' where 'the in-room coffee labeled decaffeinated/ Gives us amnesia…There are remnants in every /mirror of women putting on their faces. Bibles are blank/ & escort services are circled in the yellow pages.' This is terrific work from start to finish, by a bright new poetry star in the American sky."
    —Tony Hoagland
  • "Stylishly brilliant in his guise of I’m-Just-Like-You, Bruce Cohen has written a tutorial on the excesses of the American soul (the millennial dream-life tragi-comic version). Etiquette lessons, indeed! He knows the one thing worth knowing in this life: that humor turns the absurd into the marvelous. I love these poems for their compassionate but still hot gossip and their karaoke wisdom. Each one offers absolutely dead-on glimpses of what’s human about us humans. Buddha reincarnated as Notorious B.I.G.? I’ll buy that."
    —David Rivard
  • "Like the paintings of Rene Magritte, the songs of Tom Waits, and the Coen brothers' films, Bruce Cohen's poetry offers observations that are simultaneously razor-sharp recognizable and arrestingly askew. Swerve is both haunting and hilarious, coolly surreal and stingingly poignant. As the best literature always does, this collection knocked me off-balance as it expanded my understanding of the absurdities, challenges, and dividends of modern life. Cohen sits at the top of my short list of favorite contemporary poets."
    —Wally Lamb
  • "The discursive, confiding, & generous speaker of these poems is someone like your best pal (if you’re lucky), living the same life you are, asking his questions while watching a Jerry Lewis telethon, cleaning out the garage, meditating (outrageously) on the perfect woman; he’s on the road, on business, staying at Strange Hotel #36. He’s an ordinary American, smarter than you think at first. By unmasking the ordinary, he points out our self-deceptions & communal delusions: the mixed messages of our lives. These poems will validate your experience; they’ll make you laugh out loud; they’ll make you think; then, at some point they’ll break your heart just for being human."
    —Steve Orlen

Bruce Cohen

Born in the Bronx, New York, Bruce Cohen’s poems and non-fiction essays have appeared in over a hundred literary periodicals such as AGNI, The Georgia Review, The Harvard Review, The New Yorker, Ploughshares, Poetry, Prairie Schooner & The Southern Review as well as being featured on Poetry Daily & Verse Daily—He has published three previous volumes of poetry: Disloyal Yo-Yo (Dream Horse Press), which was awarded the 2007 Orphic Poetry Prize, Swerve (Black Lawrence Press) and Placebo Junkies Conspiring with the Half-Asleep (Black Lawrence Press). A new manuscript, Imminent Disappearances, Impossible Numbers & Panoramic X-Rays recently won the Green Rose Prize from New Issues Press and will be published in spring 2016. A recipient of an individual artist grant from the Connecticut Commission on Culture & Tourism, prior to joining the Creative Writing faculty at the University of Connecticut in 2012, he directed, developed, and implemented nationally recognized academic enhancement programs at the University of Arizona, The University of California at Berkeley, and the University of Connecticut.

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