Longfellow, Tell Me

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In this well-wrought collection there is a strong sense of place and personal history—city scenes, changing seasons, encounters with strangers, relationships with beloved people—and a sense of faith enduring despite loneliness and loss. Thomas DeFreitas is a poet of keen observation and introspection, writing with tenderness and sincerity. He’s also a skilled formalist who deftly plays with language. He can be as gushing and cocky as Frank O’Hara; or as self-deprecating and pithy as Dorothy Parker. Longfellow, Tell Me asks “What makes you exuberant, friend? / What helps you hope?” And with these poems, DeFreitas tells us.

Lisa DeSiro, author of Simple as a Sonnet


In the first two poems of this collection, Thomas DeFreitas celebrates poet Emily Dickinson and singer-songwriter Tracy Chapman. Obviously, this is a guy with a good ear, who takes a lot of other artists seriously. Himself, not so much. In “The Poet Slams Himself,” he auto-roasts with such epithets as “Stubbly rumpled slacker,” “Klutzy but audacious,” and “Fluent in Caucasian.” Whether praising or punchlining, celebrating or mourning, he’s often putting that kind of spin on his language. When a day looks blah, “The ol’ carpe diem’s fresh outta giddyup” and when Janis Joplin sings, he hears in “each raw-nerved note a blessing and a curse.”

Chris O’Carroll, author of Abracadabratude


Bucking the trend in contemporary poetry that prizes startling visuals and conceptual invention over the bedrock musicality of verse, Thomas DeFreitas’ writing touches on every dimension: eye and ear, heart and mind, form and freedom. And because the aural force of the poems is marvelously wedded to each subject and situation, something deep is triggered in our response, often before we even realize it. If a poem sings, we are lifted by a sympathetic vibration that extends deeper than conscious thought. Thomas’ poems do sing—and I found myself needing to read many of them aloud, just for the pleasure of it.

Steven Ratiner, Poet Laureate of Arlington, MA (2019-22) and author of Giving their Word: Conversations with Contemporary Poets