University of Notre Dame Press, 2002 (ISBN 0268036586)
It's been a good month for this reviewer when it comes to poetry. I'm pleased to say I'm reviewing my third near-masterpiece in a row. David Citino's The News and Other Poems dives into yellowing pages and 10-point newsprint text to find the subtlest headlines hidden in back of the daily papers. The author uses these to present a fun and insightful take on whatever curious moments inspire him from the world at large. He does this marvelously, walking a tight line between fact and fancy. Soulfully, he sings the songs of dead men as in "The Death of Domenico Modugno," then he lightens things up to the reader's great joy as in "Tabloid Poem":
I take refuge in the aisles of belief
where mortals leave their laden carts
with wheezing wheels and float
in realms of awful wonder. Now
I'm safe to dream, the Housewife
Who Lives in Hell, Scared to Death
of Germs, Bat-Boy on the Loose
at the Mall, Hunting Blood
of Plum Virgin Girls, Space-alien Dad
Up all night Probing and Probing
the Neighbors, Hapless Traveler
Raped by Biker Dykes and Kept
as Sex Slave for Three Years.
I can't wait to tell you what they did to me.
Citino, even in his humorous moments, writes with solemnity as though mourning for people he never met, and with a fascinating sort of nostalgia even for parts of lives he hasn't lived. His voice comes across rich, soft, and slow, forcing the reader to carefully wade through every line as though trying to recover a lost raft caught ten feet away in the outgoing tide.
News poems have always interested me, and to see them carried out as well as Citino manages is a delight. He finds pause in the awe-inspiring local happenings as in "Four Drown in Pool," but more often he dances along with the most bizarre news of the moment, as in "Diggers Unearth Tut's Nurse," "Venice Declares War on Pigeons," and "Models Auction Their Eggs on the Web." The latter makes a cocktail of sarcasm and yearning, creating an odd cross between love poem and elegy:
I praise the holy eggs of models.
The luscious fallopian tubes down which
jumbo pearls tumble monthly. Also
(Christ, have you seen them?) their legs,
long as the road leading to paradise
you find in Renaissance paintings
Fans of online magazines no doubt will recognize Citino as no stranger to the web, his work having popped up in such journals as The Cortland Review and Blue Fifth Review. Nonetheless, his credits extend well into the traditional literary media as well, this book alone featuring work from The Southern Review, Seneca Review, The Georgia Review, Denver Quarterly and the like. The same openness he reveals in selecting places to share his work can be found in the work itself: a diversity exists, toying with both the silly and sincere. The author picks his spots like a ballplayer looking for just the right pitch to drive out of the park. Not all of the poems in this book are home runs, but there are a good many doubles and triples, and not a strike-out in sight.
Recommendation: At $16 for a paperback, the price is a bit high. Still, this is a book that needs to be read. It stands out among the recent poetry books as something new and interesting, and as proof that poetry can come from anywhere. Definitely give it a go.