Tenement Threnody

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poems by

Meredith Trede

ISBN: 978-1-59948-547-8, 88 pages, cover price: $14

Release date: February, 2016



Meredith Trede’s Field Theory, was published by Stephen F. Austin State University Press. A Toadlily Press founder, her chapbook, Out of the Book, was in Desire Path, the inaugural volume of The Quartet Series. She serves on the Advisory Board of Slapering Hol Press. Journals that have published her work include Barrow Street, Gargoyle, The Cortland Review, and The Paris Review. She has held residency fellowships at Blue Mountain Center, Ragdale, Saltonstall, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts in Virginia and France, and was awarded the 2012 Nicholson Political Poetry Award and a NYFA travel grant. Meredith holds an MFA in poetry from Sarah Lawrence College, an MA in Management from The New School, and a BA from SUNY Oneonta.

As its title suggests, this is a book of laments but it is also a wonderful, unique book of great celebration. The poems and their speakers are so alive, so human, and their voices are captured perfectly in sonnet-sized forms. These are portraits and voices from a gone world. Sometimes, to go forward, we must go back. This is a terrific book. –Thomas Lux

With Tenement Threnody Meredith Trede reminds us what poetry does: it saves. Trede saves for us a time when “[t]he higher the floor/the lower the rent,” when one would “[p]ut another nickel in, in the nickelodeon” and dance the “[p]eabody, polka, /stack o’barley.”  From a vanished world both raucous and heart-breaking, the people in these poems speak as if for all time: “That we may come to/ some truth. To not just be our troubles.” –Suzanne Cleary, author of Beauty Mark

 In Trede’s wonderfully evocative persona poems of Irish-American tenement life, high school can erase the street from a voice, and if someone’s lucky, she puts on a suit and goes downtown to work in a big office. The unlucky fall from windows, through skylights, or succumb to Spanish Flu or weak lungs. And when parents die, what can you do…there are times you just do what God sends you, knowing, Slim hips don’t last. –Susana H. Case, author of 4 Rms w Vu

A New Law Tenement—1941

Red-brown brick, five floors, ten apartments
a floor. Windows see the sky in every room,
each apartment boasts its own toilet,
the dumbwaiter lifts groceries up, takes trash
down, backyard roses climb cyclone fencing,
an Italian super grows tomatoes.
On steamy summer days card tables prop
front doors wide open, a tar-beach roof
bounces back a dark tan, a fire escape’s
a lookout on the kids. The higher the floor
the lower the rent. Anyone can use
the laundry room. Clotheslines crisscross
the alley where cats howl, pigeons flutter,
and secrets echo in the narrow air.


I took Aunt Katie to her Jo Ann’s grave
today. She told my Mary not to be standing
on her daughter’s head. What a thing to tell
a four year old. She always was odd.
Jo Ann was the apple of her eye—
spoiled her rotten. I got her hand-me-down
shoes, beautiful soft leather. Too small
for my feet but my mother made me
wear them anyway. Jo Ann was delicate.
I was a big lump of a girl. She
had weak lungs. They’d send her to the country.
Aunt Katie would stay nearby. Until one time
she came back with a coffin. Jo Ann,
so fine boned, and my Mary on top of her grave.

The Way It Is at Nana’s

Nana cooks the very best eggs, crispy
brown on the white part, sloppy, goppy
yellow. And I can eat fat Uneeda biscuits
anytime I want. She’ll even let me
play with the big blue pitcher that sits
on the tiny table. There are bubbles trapped
in the blue glass. But I have to make sure
I don’t get Grandpa mad and make him
take the strap to me. And I try not to tinkle
cause the bathroom’s all the way at the end
of the hall and I have to stretch up to pull
the chain and all the while yell to Nana
then run back to the tiny table and pretend
I’m a fine lady but we don’t like the queen.

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