“Minor Chord” by Joan Fiset

I can’t say I enjoyed reading this poetry, but I certainly had fun reviewing it. If you are the type of reader who enjoys poetry for its lyric qualities — rhythm, rhyme, and evocative images and emotions — this review is for you. The poetry is not.

All art treads the “how much communication” line; explain too clearly, and the viewer is bored. Explain too little, and the viewer is confused. This gives rise to art that plays on the human desire to solve puzzles, to understand our environment at deeper levels. The disadvantage of this poetry is if it is too difficult to understand, we cannot enjoy the fulfillment of understanding. However, this poetry can be especially fun, because it gives readers permission to insert their own ideas and feelings into the interpretation. After all, you can’t really be wrong, can you?

I don’t want to write a review full of spoilers, but just to give you an example. The juxtaposition with collages invites us to think of words put together from other words. Now you can look at these poems from that approach, and perhaps you will get richer meaning from them.

Another technique this poet uses expresses emotion through methods other than meaning. To be more direct, if the poet wants us to feel frustration, she does not paint a picture of a frustrated person; she induces the reader to feel frustrated at the contradictions in the writing.

The collages play the same game with our minds, giving tantalizing glimpses of writing, but with important sections covered by other elements of the image. They are works of basic juxtaposition and purposely faulty perspective. Parts of images are separated and re-inserted in alternate juxtapositions.

This sends the basic message that the true meaning of our existence is caught in glimpses through the obscuring screen of common, everyday interpretations.

If I may be allowed my own metaphor, the search for meaning is like looking at a hologram, which presents our eyes with the meeting of two lasers. Each beam viewed separately is meaningless, but our minds, seeing the points where the lasers meet, see an image that doesn’t exist in real life.

When a work of this sort contains an introduction by another artist it tells us several things. First, unfortunately, it leaves the question open whether the art can stand on its own merits, or whether it needs to be explained to us. In the case of this work, it was certainly helpful to have someone else’s hints as to what was going on. On the other hand, I was disappointed that my communication with the original poet was tainted, and my interpretation of her work was affected by an outside commentator. For example, when the Introduction writer thinks of clothing she thinks of closeness. I don’t happen to make that connection. Has she created something that isn’t there, or am I missing something?

Of course, that sort of quandary is part of the experience, so I suspect the poet would be pleased. And I plead guilty myself; a reviewer basically performs a similar function, giving the reader hints that might provide entry points to the understanding of the work.

So, to perform that function, I have to say that this book is for denizens of a world of philosophical and analytical games that work on many levels. It is difficult for the uninitiated to enter this world, and most of us won’t enjoy it if we do. I’m giving it a star rating based on its application to those who usually read my reviews, while acknowledging the complexity and skill involved in the writing.

In the long run, this style of poetry is basically a separate art form, its meaning and emotion closed to the average reader. This is book of poetry meant for the shelves of a university library, where it will be appreciated for what it is, and not disparaged for not being what it does not pretend to be.

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

About the Author: Gordon Long

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