Leonard Cirino review:
Minimum Heroic by Christopher Salerno
Fifty Poems by Liana Quill
Other Prohibited Items by Martha Greenwald
All from the Mississippi Review Poetry Series 2010
118 College Drive # 5144,
Hattiesburg, MS 39406-0001
60-64 pages, $9.00 each
First, thanks to the University for sending copies of these prizewinning books. Second, they are all reasonably priced at $9.00. That’s the last good thing I can say about any of them. How do I display my disgust with these books. All the writers look to be 25- 30 years old and are “appealing.” All teach at universities and evidently have MFA’s. All are thoroughly involved in their petty lives and, all but Quill, egotistical to the utmost. Salerno could be said to have a tiny bit of grit but basically they are all from the privileged class of new MFA’s and writing professors whose idea of a difficult time is when their child has a cold or they get bored in a faculty meeting. There is not one concrete mention of the ongoing war in the mid-east, not one poem about the economy or suffering of others. Nothing about the millions of homeless or those who have lost their jobs or had their mortages foreclosed, not to speak of any attempt to address the two million plus prisoners in US penitentiaries, or the millions of immigrants. In particular, nothing about any foreign country and the atrocities, starvation, and dictatorships in much of the Third World. Just the comfortable vomiting of the upper-middle class with their petty neuroses.
Not that every poem should address a situation or cause other than one’s inability to feel for others, but in three books I think there should be some discussion of current events. Not to mention that the poems are lauded by Dana Weir and others as being “ordinary” and “daily.” They are exactly that and I don’t cater to “ordinary.” Nothing but pettiness. There are no other world or ethereal works, very little of any sort of metaphysics, no sense of history or a literary framework, and hardly anything that makes me think past the most mundane of thoughts. In all, these books are representational of the business world that US poetry has become. Aloof, pretentious, only a smattering of what could be considered anything other than a comfortable, middle-class life with all its amenities. This is the me generation developed and promoted by the business of so-called art – and it has little or nothing to do with art or even aesthetics. Except for a very occasional poem the language is boring and predictable, the images equally dull and unimaginative. The only time there is a mention of any difficulty or grief has to do with the poets lamenting their personal life of relative comfort. No walking in the shoes of others. Occasionally Quill has an interesting image but her poems are almost all about five lines and could be called “grammar school sketches” by a precocious third-grader. Not one of her pieces evolves into a thought-out or complete poem.
Once in a while Salerno addresses something pertinent but he usually shrugs it off with some stupid comical allusion as if it doesn’t really matter. His one line that envelops his totality is, “… no Eye, because the world is boring.” I’m glad for him he has the time and funds to be bored but there are billions of people suffering in this world, not to mention the environment, and none of these three fakes can relate to much but their infantile lives in a world with little meaning to them but their clothes, make-up, drinking, and high calorie food. I read a few poems to my brother who is a carpenter and asked him if I was mistaken in my observance of their vacuousness. He is well read and street smart and all he could say was, “Botique poetry.” These disgusting people of immense prvilege are masquerading as poets. I can’t even call them writers much less poets or artists because of their simplistic and egotistical approach which is terribly sad. almost tragic for the state of the art. And this is the situation with most prizewinners in the US today. The word art has become an embellishment for what can be easily passed off and sold to the public; prettiness and pettiness, without principles or beauty or depth. If pornography can be defined as “without socially redeeming value” then these books should be considered obscene.