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spacer.gif   NINE LIVES OF CHICAGO POETRY: MARY FONS
Posted by : cj on Friday, January 05, 2007 - 12:56 PM
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Chicago Poetry Reviews: Click Headlines .
the texas EP
A chapbook by Mary Fons
Reviewed by C. J. Laity


Mary Fons is one of the most vulnerable Chicago poets I have ever seen. I say she is vulnerable because she pours her heart and soul into her poetry and examines herself with little self-censorship, and that is not a safe thing to do. It is this vulnerability that makes the poetry in Fons' chapbook the texas EP so rich, heartfelt and dare I say entertaining:

my mother is the best mother so I keep this poem and much more from her/she'd die if she heard it and I'd like her to live to see a granddaughter/someday mama/I will fall in love for real

(from "mama.")

If there is a theme to the texas EP on the surface it might be summed up as the search for the meaning of love:

isn't that the way love is supposed to go/wild then mundane

Fons' delightful talent at non-narrative story-telling, along with the shear musicality of the language she chooses, puts an impressive spin on this age old quest for the meaning of love. Through closer examination, however, the quest for the meaning of love becomes but a sub-theme of a much larger point: staying optimistic in a screwed up world.

By looking between the lines of Fons' poetry, it is revealed that Mary Fons is actually a very talented political poet. Fons doesn't shove political messages into the face of the reader, but by telling effective stories such as the one about the HIV positive immigrant, the political aspects naturally arise.

I find it highly experimental that Fons can tackle serious, politically charged topics with just the right touch of irony, without breaching the boundaries of taste. This irony flows through her work as naturally as taking a breath:

if I were better at descriptions I would say she has come on winged feet/playing hope on violins/I would say we have just been given back that singular shade of lilac that completes as lover's sunset

(from "spring.")

In her work, Fons is aware of the appropriate time for humor, though she is also quite capable of drawing a tear when the time for that comes, such as in her personification of cancer in the poem "the sister's lament."

or with ivory knives I will whittle myself into a toothpick and work her flesh from your teeth

If you catch Mary Fons performing some of the poems from the texas EP at a local venue, you will discover a level of cynicism that isn't necessarily reflected on the page. During a performance, Fons might need to pause after such lines as:

not for the one who says they're "choosing not to date" for awhile

(from "love poem 2002.")

or such as:

baby, what did we have for dinner last night/chicken/right/or 'pollo' as he would say

(from "the proposal.")

On the stage, Fons might need to pause to wait for the laughter to cease, though these lines slip by with less emphasis when they are read off the page. This is okay, because Fons' work stands up strongly on both the page and the stage, and there is nothing wrong with experimenting like this. For the most part, Fons' unique brand of sarcasm comes through strongly regardless of the venue; she manages this through sudden changes in tone, striking juxtapositions and poetic punch lines:

I don't have one-night stands/I have sleepovers.

(from "i am so young.")

If I had to sum up the poetry of Mary Fons with a single word that word would be fun. Part of the fun of reading Mary Fons' poetry is trying to figure out if a certain subject is meant as a metaphor or if it is meant literally, such as in the poem "the chef." It is also fun to be dazzled by the strength and confidence of Fons' poetic voice. This poetry is not silly fun nor meaningless fun. It is intelligent fun. And that makes it all the more, well . . . fun.

--CJ Laity

To order a copy of this chapbook go to MaryFons.com

Back to the other nine lives.



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Note: Here is a review of Mary Fons' chapbook, the texas EP.

 
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