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The Beautiful Losses

The Beautiful Losses

TBL Front Cover.jpg

The Beautiful Losses

101 poems, 125 pages

by Frederick Pollack

Cover art “Cenote” by Phylis Geller

6” x 9” perfectbound paperback


The Beautiful Losses tells stories. They may be set in today’s world, the deep past, the far future, on distant planets, or in alternate and quite implausible histories. Like all stories they involve conflict. They may occur within one person, for every self is a mixtape of narratives. What you won’t find are the endless elegies for the poet’s own parents or childhood that typify contemporary poetry. Reality, these poems say, is one thing: it’s reflected in, and reflects, your most secret fantasies; it contains desire, and all feared or desired futures. Hopefully, reading some of these poems, you’ll laugh.

  — Frederick Pollack

You don’t need to be in the mood for poetry; you need to heed a bard — a storyteller, a verse-maker, an oral historian — weaving his web. Fred Pollack is all these and more. At once easy going and precise, his narrative forms will entertain and delight you. Sometimes sardonic, often amusing, but always insightful, illuminating both intensely immediate and resonantly timeless aspects of the human condition, this is a collection you’ll want to read over and again.


The Beautiful Losses is an unusually beautiful book, telling with wit, irony and occasional satire, stories that feel lived, advancing thematically towards a kind of goal. The stories are informed by a complex of loves — ‘Our fridge, the size of love’ is a generous fridge. The voices are often those of older people in conversation. Moving through the world they have memory, resentment, anger, but integrity, too, so they hang on to the possibility of rapport. They keep talking, and the end — even at the very end of the book — is not silence. Old age has a very different sensuality from what the young enjoy, and it is wonderful to find it here so intensely evoked, so that the reader lives it.

— Michael Schmidt, editor of Carcanet and PN Review, author of 15 books



Frederick Pollack is an American poetry treasure. He has written a huge amount, with an almost unparalleled dedication to poetry; The Beautiful Losses compiles poems from several collections. The world of Pollack’s witnessing is often urban and somewhat sinister. Something or someone that may or may not be named is always lurking, even in the shadows of plain sight. It is a world where “An unmarked plane is an inside joke,” and the point is neither pain nor information; “The point, ultimately, is procedure . . .” Pollack is an incomparable examiner of the procedures that govern human life, that make it at once beautiful and horrible. Walking through any cityscape with this American Original is itself a poetic act; and his work, I think, will outlive that of many more honored contemporaries.

— Robert McDowell, editor, publisher, author, and poet



The Beautiful Losses is a delight to read — the poems are brilliant, often wry and ironic, or humorous, with portrayals that are fearless and unforgiving. Pollack presents us with a complex world. He explores the personal and the public spheres, the emotional and the intellectual, and a prodigious range of themes: the culture wars and aesthetic values, power, international bureaucracies and their position papers, vaccines and infrastructure, “focus groups that never quite focus,” time machines, love. He masters lofty themes, yet we get concrete details: of specks on an old mirror, he writes, “here an insect/ secreted or died, there a passing drink spattered.” Pollack will infect you with his insatiable curiosity: where else will you find poems where you'll meet Zeno, Sophocles, Corelli, Viera da Silva, the Beat poets, William Corbett, Harold Bloom and his School of Resentment, Godzilla & King Kong, and engage intellectually with someone who says “my aim/ is to own and emasculate/ all gods.”? The Beautiful Losses is poetry worth a second and third reading.

— Vinod Busjeet, author of Silent Winds, Dry Seas

Frederick Pollack is the author of two book-length narrative poems, The Adventure (Story Line Press, 1986; reissued April 2022 by Red Hen Press) and Happiness (Story Line Press, 1998), and two collections, A Poverty of Words (Prolific Press, 2015) and Landscape with Mutant (Smokestack Books, UK, 2018). In print, Pollack’s work has appeared in Hudson Review, Salmagundi, Poetry Salzburg Review, Manhattan Review, Skidrow Penthouse, Main Street Rag, Miramar, Chicago Quarterly Review, The Fish Anthology (Ireland), Poetry Quarterly Review, Magma (UK), Neon (UK), Orbis (UK), Armarolla, December, and elsewhere. Online, his poems have appeared in Big Bridge, Diagram, BlazeVox, Mudlark, Occupoetry, Faircloth Review, Triggerfish, Big Pond Rumours (Canada), Misfit, OffCourse, and elsewhere. His here.

Reviews:  Reader's Favorite

                 Off Course

The Beautiful Losses sample poems

Role Model

It must have been in Mother’s third trimester

that I began to hear talk

about “having something to fall back on.”

Retreating as far as I could

in my cramped quarters, I brooded.

“Fall back on” what? Nonbeing? I’d barely left.

And from what? One still has, at that point,

some enthusiasm for life; but I gathered

the smugly servile voice meant something else.


The larger question was, Who was talking?

My aunts and uncles were gentle,

much put upon, not “successful.”

My parents were arty types; they’d never give me

a rung on or push up the ladder.

It must have been the Spirit of the Age,

one of delis and printshops, not trillionaires.


Nevertheless I came out arguing

with whoever it was. Nothing I had to say

was lucrative, i.e., necessary.

But as I spoke – I went on a long time –

necessity itself, abashed, retreated,

and only what I had to say was left.

The Toys

Somewhere in modernity, a New Woman

exits a stagedoor. The bloodstreaked ghostpale

makeup for her role

as ingenue in Goddess in the Underground

has yielded to freshness; next season,

if various plots mature, she will be Goddess.

The stalls’ and critics’ ecstasies

linger. Her silent assistant bears away

several nose-cones

of roses. She will find them vased

at home – save one,

stolen to grace

the assistant’s tiny immigrant apartment

and watered by nameless emotions.

A streetlamp limns the actress’s better profile.

Droshkies and broughams jingle to the curb,

are displaced (horses clopping

droop-headed off) by a jeep,

MG, and Rolls. A studied gesture

brings glove to dimple, choosing.


Across the street, an aging youth

wearing the Pierrot costume the system

demands of rebels, glares at the suitor cars

with a jealousy that at least is real.

He should be off being a genius

or blogging but in a way

he is at his post. Now fascists pass,

breaking heads and windows, obstructing his view.

(The driver of the jeep calls

HQ, but the time to shoot them

has passed.) The youth is tempted

to join them – let anger out, it’s easier

to despise women – but a miraculous,

unmotivated niceness

prevents. He goes off

to mitigate Third World conditions

several blocks away. At times the very white

whites of the eyes in dark

faces in lightless rooms remind him

how he looked at her.


Soon she’s the Goddess,

awaiting her car and chauffeur,

head full of film contracts and leading men,

when along the boulevard, narrowly avoiding

bouquets of surveillance cameras, swoops

a new two-person jetpack. It’s

a youth she has seen at the edge of the world,

well-dressed enough beneath the helmet.

He invites her for a spin.

I can give you my autograph here, she says,

and Pierrot, imploding, cries

that what he wants is her love – that since he saw her

as the Rebel Girl last year he can see nothing else;

neither ethics nor action nor madness nor pride

helps. How did you get the jetpack?

she asks. He shrugs, sighs.

She lets him down efficiently but gently.

He squares his shoulders, tells himself and her

it must be Art

she has decided to live for. No.

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