Reviews

Ignored or Unknown Worlds

JILL MANDRAKE

Joe Fiorito’s City Poems (Exile Editions) portrays the inner city conditions that result from poverty, abuse and neglect. Most of these poems consist of only a few lines, and almost all convey the real hope that something better lies ahead. “Silent Night on Clarence Square” delivers, in only eight lines, a modern retelling of a story from St. Luke; “Karaoke Memorial” eulogizes a man via his supreme karaoke skills in an unnamed pub; “She Walks the Hallway, Singing” tells of a woman who, in her own unreachable way, rises above the surrounding squalor (“she had the kind of thoughts / tin hats won’t prevent”); and “Pigeon Park, Early Afternoon” is about doing your personal care in a not-so-private place, in this case “a fountain on the square.” The author, who is both journalist and poet, also interprets bleaker situations. For example, “The Things You Remember” describes a man’s recollection of electroconvulsive therapy. In my opinion, this is the second-best short poem ever written about shock treatment and its effects. (The best short poem on the subject is “Two Years Later” by the late John Wieners, which begins, “The hollow eyes of shock remain/Electric sockets burnt out in the skull.”) Joe Fiorito’s poem, with a striking resemblance, ends “Electrodes, mouth guards and— / nothing. All I remember now / is that I forget.” The most significant poem in the collection might be “Two Girls, Streetcar.” The author references T.S. Eliot, Robert Frost, William Carlos Williams and Ezra Pound, all in a four-stanza poem about two girls at the Ossington bus stop. The lines manage to link older poetry with a younger subject, in a new way to express an age-old encouragement: life goes on.

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JILL MANDRAKE

Jill Mandrake writes strange but true stories and leads Sister DJ’s Radio Band, featuring rhythm and blues covers, post-vaudeville original tunes and occasional comedy bits. https://hido.bandcamp.com/album/the-neti-pot

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