This Way Out (Carmine Starnino)

My joke, when I'm asked why I don't write poetry about my feelings, is that as a straight, white male, aged 18-35, I feel my life is adequately represented in the culture. Starnino's one of the cats out there, writing about his (my?) feelings, and excusing me from doing so. I'm not a fan of Starnino's but he's a strong poet by any standards and although his performance at the so-called “Poetry Cage Match” was uninspiring at best, I was impressed by his poem “Our Butcher” — when he read it you could hear the meat being chopped.

There are few surprises in this book: it's a solid, well-crafted selection of poetry about the usual topics. Whatever you think about the man, it's clear that his poetry is a step above the common poet's. If it's straightforward, conventional poetry you're after, you could do a lot worse than seek out Starnino, who's a true craftsman in many respects. One poem, though, stands out above the rest. In its structure, it bears more than a passing resemblance to experimentalist work (or whatever you want to call it). Here's an excerpt of “Heavenography”:

Working-class clouds make tracks over the working class. Working-class clouds take turns taking down directions, try to read back what they wrote, but can't. Working-class clouds are tripping, sensing just how high up they are. Working-class clouds are a thousand tons of returned rain freshly painted and set upright to dry. Working-class clouds are breeze-fed flocs, hardly anything, whathaveyous, an idea in trial and error, one-of-a-kind demos.

I wish Starnino would spend more time writing poems like this, where he puts his ear and his pen to work on something more formally inventive than a sonnet. While I appreciate a solid collection of poetry like this one, I think it's time for Starnino to take some risks. This book dips a toe into the river, and I hope the next book dives.

Liked it? Take a second to support Jonathan Ball on Patreon!

Jonathan Ball is a writer, filmmaker, and scholar living at www.jonathanball.com.

Liked it? Take a second to support Jonathan Ball on Patreon!
I want to send you my best new work.

I want to send you my best new work.

Every week, I will send you my best new page, and tell you about how I wrote it. I'll share resources I used, techniques you could try, and other behind-the-scenes information and writing advice.

Liked it? Take a second to support Jonathan Ball on Patreon!

One thought on “This Way Out (Carmine Starnino)

  1. PS — When I say the poem “stand outs” I don’t mean it’s the best poem. I just mean that it stands out in contrast. The poems in the collection are quite excellent overall.

Join the Conversation!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.