Going Big


Pageant
, Joanna Fuhrman (73pp, $15-95 Alice James Books)


Television seems a big influence in Joanna Fuhrman's work Pageant: 'The Vietnam War was trapped in the television / the television broke like fireworks. The television exploded like sprinklers'; 'The woman who denies the inevitability of television / is using a bluejay for a cell phone.' There is even an ode to the telly:
                       
                  
Ode to Television
                  
                  
Every morning
                    is like every night.

                    except
                    for you:
                                   
                    a clipped
                    pause/

                    Oh beautiful
                    faux celluloid

                    Beautiful
                    white noise!

                    Love me
                    like a fog ...

It is obvious that the poet is influenced by the outside world, which is filtered through her television screen. The global village is boxed down and we are made aware that the poet is 'aware' of what is going on in her televised world. These poems like to go big:

                    
The 22nd Century

                   No one is sad.
                      No one knows the word sad.
                      The 21st century sleeps
                      hidden in its permeable shell.

                      Every mystery novel ends
                       with an opaque coffee stain
                       Every love story -
                       a missing tongue.

and

                       
Testimony

                        You see, I was only trying to understand
                         what America must feel like after all the boys
                         and girls have left the classroom,

And as big as these poems go they also like to demonstrate that they are current and well connected: there are references to Andy Warhol, William Carlos Williams, Li Po, Jimmy Hendrix, Marcel Duchamp, Eva Braun, Marx, Frederick Douglas, Charlie Brown, Barbie, Lucy, and God. And - I'm using that And again - all these names are set in a postmodern
retroness which is quasi exotic and sometimes mundane:

                           from 3) did you hear that

                           My body floated in ether.
                           Other bodies
                           knocked about

                           bloated and orange
                           like Tang floating
                           through a feeding tube

                           I was happy then,
                           slightly neon, slightly
                           Pavlovian and damp.
                    
And as big as these poems are; and as well connected and exotic as these poems are, there also some real poetic gems:

                    
You Who Are Full of Fear, Fear Not

                     The world kept urging me
                     to wear more orange -

                     do a little flaming hula dance,
                     cha cha cha and so on

                     It's kind of like
                     what they say
                     about the kind
                     leading the kind.


                     There' a track in every moving plan.

                     a culture of what?

                     a culture of the.

                     It.

and

                   
Why Are All the Elephants Crying

                    I am wrinkle-free,
                    Which isn't a problem
                    except for the clock bird
                    trapped in my curls

These poems are a mixture of the personal and impersonal. The personal is much better. They feel more accurate in their delivery. When the poet opens up to herself and strips away all that televised and assumed conditioning - that is only to be expected from a post op baby boomer saturated in the homogenised global pop/celeb culture that we all must succumb to. That when the poet lifts the mask of intellectualism and fear of being seen as not 'right on man'- then we have the real poet.

                               James McLaughlin 2010