FUMAROLES by Anthony Arcuri


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This poem cycle takes a philosophical look at the human condition.

As is traditional in epic poetry, debut author Arcuri sets out his purpose in the opening lines: “I speak my mind, ambitiously wishing / To aid humankind in the search for truths.” His theme and his scope are ambitious; the epic’s three books contain 115 cantos, or chapters, with each canto including anywhere from a handful to dozens of 14-line, unrhymed poems. Though sonnetlike, they’re not blank verse as it’s traditionally understood, because while some lines follow the traditional iambic pentameter pattern (such as “I’m in my favorite haunt, the Tree of Life”), others vary. The opening line quoted above, for example, is tetrameter. Thematically, the epic celebrates the primordial: “I fancy nothing after the Stone Age.” Nevertheless, the speaker also admires “letters’ greatest voices,” such as John Milton and William Shakespeare. Also, the poet rails against the “fiends of affluence”; although their “temporary gains will be removed,” his speaker says, trouble is brewing. Arcuri’s language is often compelling in this collection, featuring bold statements and memorable imagery, such as “This is my testament, sworn on the earth’s / Oldest known rocks.” Throughout, his speakers exhort readers to listen and learn, calling on them to “save the world and save / The wilds” by, for example, extending “the sanctity of human life / To include the world’s flora and fauna” and by “making the mystic leap” into a new understanding. But without the central narrative of a hero’s journey, which is traditionally important to the epic, the poems feel unorganized, as if they could be read in any order. They’re also repetitious, with similar themes, such as the primacy of nature, recurring frequently. Some archaic word choices feel stale, as well, such as “oft,” “ne’er,” “blest,” and “’twas.”

Often striking poems, but their impact gets somewhat lost in the crowded pages.

Pub Date: July 3rd, 2018
ISBN: 978-1-4834-8662-8
Page count: 402pp
Publisher: Lulu
Program: Kirkus Indie
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