Thursday, July 08, 2010

I read. I spread joy.

I don’t know anymore what “frequently” means but I frequently review books over at Good Reads. I usually don’t post the reviews here because why should I. But I bought a chapbook recently on a whim and because I liked it so much, I thought why not. It’s Frank Montesonti’s A Civic Pageant.

To be honest when the chapbook arrived I feared I was about to add it to the buyer’s remorse blob I’ve been working on in my garage. The title struck me suddenly as pompous, and the cover design gave me a “huh?” moment (a rudimentary dinosaur in a tie and hat smoking a cigarette. Maybe it’s a joint. I don’t get the cover.). But the poems are great – sad and funny, heavy in a sneaky, casual way. More than once I was brought to tears. This may have been hormones.

When I got to the poem “Faking It” I realized I’d read the poem years ago in an issue of Barrow Street and had even written the poet to say how much I liked it. (Other than that I swear I am not related to Frank Montesonti, nor have I ever met him, nor is he in any position I'm aware of that would make my own poetry better or more marketable even.) Many of the poems in this chapbook were even better than “Faking It,” which begins –

“My girlfriend has multiple orgasms. I’m not sure who is giving her these orgasms, but she’ll come home with a grocery sack and drop them on the table –

they look like tiny doorknobs made of bronze.”

Some of the poems have line breaks and stanzas but many of them appear on the page more like prose poems. “Faking It,” for example, starts off “shaped like prose” but then becomes poem. None of this bothered me. All the poems were inviting. The only poem “formats” that bother me are those where the poet throws two words on one page, two more words on the next page and instructs readers to slacken their jaws and say “wow.” I fail at this. But Mr. Montesonti doesn’t use that tricky format.

Among my favorites was “Redundancy of Light,” which starts seemingly seriously and turns funny –

“Outside this hotel room
rain falls as pure as its definition.
Call the French, tell them

there should be a word
for shadows of raindrops
on a hotel window.”

Many of the poems, and there are only 17 in the chapbook, refer to film or particular films. One starts with George Bailey from “It’s a Wonderful Life,” and another one of my favorites is “Quitclaim of the Wizard of Oz,” even though it has been dawning on me for years that I really don’t like “The Wizard of Oz.” I've never admitted this in public, or to myself, until now. There’s another called “Film Noir” and another with the long long title “Gratuitous Voice-Over at the End of a Film Reflecting on the Tribulations of the Plot and Coming Finally to an Epiphany.”

This is one of the best –if not the best- poetry collection I’ve read this year. It’s one of those in which everything in me says “yes, that’s right.”

Here’s a link to a poem (the George Bailey one) at 42Opus and a second one also from the book published at Diagram.

I thought Frank Montesonti was my secret discovery but I looked him up on Facebook and would you believe there’s a group called “Frank Montesonti is a Poetic God?” There is, and I joined it.

5 comments:

Rose Hunter said...

This is wonderful stuff. I like your blog! Just came here via Sherry O'Keefe's blog. I'll keep reading....

Kathleen said...

You did spread joy! (I have read "Faking It," too!) Thanks for all the links and praise of Frank, and I will seek you out at goodreads now that I have finally signed up.

Also, I am tortured by hormones today.

Tricia said...

That is a brontosaurus wearing a tie! I approve.

Liz said...

The read and recommendation I needed to get me back to poetry...cheers, Sarah.

: )

SarahJane said...

Thanks for reading. I really enjoyed this chapbook. Though I said that already.

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