A Dog’s Life


Poems by Adam Scheffler

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It’s always interesting to see what a new poet brings to the show. The real singers — whether lamenting or praising — give us a sense of life as larger than we could have expressed before they arrived. With an explorer’s curiosity and drive, Adam Scheffler turns his poems into a treasury. He speaks of the value and wonder in small and large things, and like a dog (the dog he’d have us believe his soul is), meets the world with undisguised exuberance. These poems are spiritual in the way poetry is best suited to be: they articulate our good fortune to be alive.

— Bob Hicok


“My hearts are non-biodegradable,” Scheffler quips late in this engaging collection, and he’s not only joking: these hearts, as the man said, are earned, by a poet whose confidently demotic line seems poised, or balanced, or sometimes even (as with Buster Keaton) overbalanced, between an almost overwhelming compassion for friends and lovers and strangers and a justified disgust. His feeling, like all great feeling in poetry, happens underneath and around and above, not just within, the words — but the words matter too: those “at night/ with the shade pulled back,” those in his punning list of positives and negatives, those in his plain-as-bread statements about what makes life worth the various candles it burns, and those in his delightful saddened similes, “fearless as a turnip awaiting the plow.” Few poets — surely few new poets — so funny are also so sad, dogs or no dogs; few poets with such a gift for heartfelt explanations also demonstrate this kind of narrative, this kind of wit. Start with “The Hair” and “Sex Positive,” and don’t forget the one about the ants. It’s a keeper.

— Stephen Burt


With a philosophical disposition and an expansive sense of play, Adam Scheffler takes us on a ramble through an edgy world of anxieties we recognize as our own. Along the way, he explores his relationships with the universe, with life and death, with America, with loved ones, and with himself. His poems can be deliberately elusive, filled with pleasing pinball-ricochets and painterly effects, yet he’s equally adept at straightforward poems of tenderness. He can be a hipster and ironist, yet stay refreshingly vulnerable. His moving, political poems, “1WTC” and “Obama’s Oval Office,” are among the best here — along with the metaphysical, list like poems, “Contemporaries” and “Relationship Quiz.” A Dog’s Life is a book full of riches and surprises.

— Joan Murray


A Dog’s Life is a delightful romp through Americana by way of “real” America with sly, politically engaged poems. Though this poet issues a rallying cry against “siren songs of entertainment,” his poems are completely entertaining but, at the same time, completely wise. He takes on true love, extinction, our fragile environment, war, technology, porn, aging and our fight against it, cancer, nursing homes, and death. He takes on feminism through an adored waitress, the surprise of a friend’s hairy armpits, goddesses, and tall women — one a soldier and another on a blind date. A Dog’s Life is an enlightened look at Doritos, Carson Daly, Walmart, McDonalds, theme parks, and, of course, dogs.

— Denise Duhamel


Adam Scheffler grew up in California, received his MFA in poetry from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and is currently working on finishing his PhD in English at Harvard. His poems have appeared in The American Poetry Review, The Antioch Review, The Massachusetts Review, Rattle, Colorado Review, and many other journals. He is the winner of River Styx’s 2014 International Poetry Contest and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize.


Publisher: Jacar Press
Publication date: October, 2016
71 pages. $14.95
ISBN 978-0-936481-11-1
Available: Jacar Press and select bookstores

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