An individual’s physical frailty cannot be used as a defense against injuries inflicted upon them, according to the eggshell skull rule, a legal principle that provides the title to Amy Strauss Friedman’s new poetry collection. “The Eggshell Skull Rule” alludes to the multiple responsibilities each person assumes by virtue of human existence. In the follow-up to her 2016 debut, Friedman prompts readers to consider personal accountability. “The Eggshell Skull Rule” explores themes of togetherness and familial responsibility, particularly the bonds and fractures of mother-daughter relationships.
Divided into three sections and replete with feminist themes that take patriarchy, its expressions and ramifications to task, “The Eggshell Skull Rule” absorbs the energies of the #MeToo era. Abandoning the witty prose stylistics of her previous collection, “Gathered Bones are Known to Wander,” Friedman exerts winsome stylistics in her latest offerings, yet weights them with the gravitas of the current cultural fracture. The poems refract through a prismatic shifting of truncated lines, couplets, triplets, strophes, frank images and internal rhymes. The speakers within these poems dissect the multiple identities women assume, sometimes to their detriment, throughout their lives, sacrificing mouths, teeth, limbs, names to appease others. In “Instructions for Loving a Daughter,” the speaker advises: “Smother everything you see but her. / Bite your lip, steel your arrested but never rested / heart.” The physical, emotional and psychological entanglements that circumscribe women’s lives flesh out these poems, which meld both astute observations and philosophical inquiry and echo the rumination on God, faith and technological intrusions that powered her previous collection.
The theme of matrilineal bonds gradually announces itself within this collection alongside other topics that occupy Friedman’s artistic métier: marriage, zeitgeist and faith. Images of obliterated domestic spaces and work places animated by harassment and conformity flower in the landscape of these poems which seek not to answer but to attest.
“The Eggshell Skull Rule”
By Amy Strauss Friedman
Kelsay Books, 78 pages, $14
Amy Strauss Friedman reads on September 26, 7pm at Women and Children First Bookstore,5233 North Clark (773)769-9299 and on September 30, 7pm at Sunday Salon, Celtic Crown Public House, 2356 West Cullom (773)558-1110.
Jarrett Neal holds an MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. His first book, “What Color Is Your Hoodie? Essays on Black Gay Identity” was a finalist for the 2016 Lambda Literary Award.