Comprising experimental poetry and prose, Friendly + Fire interrogates the male subjective experience of war and the gendered implications of camaraderie or “brotherhood” while aligning the seriousness of a war target with the frivolities of gossip: “MILITARY LINGO SUBLIMATES SMACK TALK FROM HERE ON IN.”
Friendly + Fire employs a character named H.S. (also to be read as “his”) as a filter for engaging with and through real-life stories of friendly fire. In the first section, the Tarnak Farm Incident (where four Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan were killed by American Air Force pilot Harry Schmidt) is used as source material, intersecting with questions about receiving a “pink slip” from one’s employer and the mental and physical conditions endured by fighter pilots (suppressed appetite, prescribed sedatives and amphetamines to regulate sleep, and stress tolerance). Reductionist language is used to describe friendship in the 21st century (forced affect in the workplace and Facebook friends).
Act I of LaFrance’s first book, Species Branding, ends with the line: “crippled on my last leg. where are our friends?” It is a question that has carried forward into Friendly + Fire, acting as the connective tissue between these two texts.
“A combination of expose and manifesto and critical historicism, this book gutted me and brought to light the actions and reactions of my daily existence as a testament to the reality of a masculinity shrouded in the subconscious, in the unexamined, in the latency and laziness of the being “dude” (sluggish, slightly gross) in the second decade of the 2000s. And for all of this, I am thankful. … With this volume following a chapbook and full length, LaFrance is no foreigner to the proverbial pen, and thus every instance of her existence is at once personal and external, prospective and retrospective entwined. The six sections that compose this book are a response to a crime. And they are also an independent and striking look at the retributive act of reflection. An appropriately intelligent book that does not hold back for any person or anything. It rouses, coughs and spits in protest, defies and enlightens all the same. … In its grimmest moment, Friendly + Fire reminds me of who we are and who we have the potential to be.”
—Queen Mob’s Tea House
“As smart and swell as [LaFrance’s previous book] Species Branding was, Friendly Fire constitutes a considerable ratcheting up of risk, affect, sheer nerve. … LaFrance’s use of ‘H.S.’ is incisive. … LaFrance’s tone oscillates wildly between Philosophe and Riot Grrrl, which is great for those who prefer to be disturbed. … Jagged with political sensation. … A world of milquetoast poetry could benefit from paying heed to Danielle LaFrance’s brave aggressions.”
—Contemporary Verse 2
“LaFrance’s Friendly + Fire is composed out of an aesthetic of war and friendship, intimacy and accidents of upheaval, whether political, social or personal, writing out the specifics of armed conflict and intimate acts. Hers is a critique of multiple systems, as well as her own actions, and each thread throughout the collection, interweaving and occasionally getting (deliberately) tangled. In LaFrance’s poems, colours and contexts blend.”