Ugly Duckling Presse


John Surowiecki

Poetry | $15 $14

In Flies; or, the Last Days, D___h and Putrefaction of Mr. Sam Jeden as Narrated by Eight Generations of Musca Domestica, John Surowiecki’s fourth collection of poems, flies do all the talking. Eight generations of them narrate the funny and unusual story of Sam Jeden. But underneath the jokes and the puns there is a serious theme—the loneliness of old age—for the flies are waiting for Sam to die. Sam’s passing is actually something of a religious experience for the flies. Death is their god, their food giver. In fact, flies cannot speak death’s name. This is not a black comedy of despair and nihilism, but a comedy of a distinctly lighter shade that ultimately embraces the world and all the good and bad in it. The book ends with a long Salut au Monde, half Whitman and half Goodnight Moon.

Excerpt ˇ



1. No fly has ever committed murder (or suicide).

2. Really, what can we possibly do? lick you to death?

3. We are all of a piece & always unconnected.

4. What 1 fly learns, another fly knows.

5. What 1 fly experiences, another fly calls upon.


6. A fly never sees another fly as an enemy.

7. Because our lives are so short, flies don’t experience

old age: our last days are pretty much like our first,

maybe a little less bouncy and a lot less earnest: but

no arthritis, no psoriasis about the elbows knees & dick,


no athlete’s foot, no sciatica, no prostate the size

of a meatloaf, no gingivitis, no bone loss, no shingles.

8. There is no lord of the flies.

9. Every fly is remembered; none go down in history.

10. What are there more of: flies or poets? 

Close ˆ

About the Author

John Surowiecki is the inaugural recipient of the Poetry Foundation's Pegasus Award in Verse Drama for his play, My Nose and Me, based on his Further Adventures of My Nose,  a chapbook published by UDP. Surowiecki is the author of four poetry collections:  Flies (UDP, 2012), Watching Cartoons before Attending a Funeral (White Pine Press, 2003 White Pine Press Prize), The Hat City after Men Stopped Wearing Hats (The Word Works, 2006 Washington Prize), and Barney and Gienka (CW Press, 2010). He is also the author of six chapbooks, most recently, Mr. Z., Mrs. Z., J.Z., S.Z., put out by UDP in 2011. He has published widely and has won a number of awards, including the Pablo Neruda Award from Nimrod International Journal, a silver medal in the Sunken Garden Poetry Festival National Competition, and an arts fellowship from the State of Connecticut.