A poetry collection for the frustrated faithful.
Jiambalvo’s (Smirk, 2011) poems span several topics and time periods, but they’re connected by several classical themes that run throughout the work. Even a cursory glance reveals a wealth of references to history, Greek mythology and philosophy, and Christian theology. Plato mingles comfortably with Edith Piaf, and many poems clearly and bluntly address topics of modern life and modern warfare. The book’s sections each could stand equally well on its own: “In Tempore Belli,” “Americana,” “Essential Gaudiness,” “You” and “Toward a More Abundant Life.” The first section starts things off on a heavy note with such poems as “Death of a Terrorist,” in which Jiambalvo gives the passion of Christ a modern spin: “In the country he was gathering a mob / with gimmicks of free food and free health care. / All they had to do was follow him, the Way. / The way all right to sudden revolution / and an end to what we’ve all worked for so hard.” The author writes through the lens of a perpetually disappointed optimist: He longs endlessly for peace and simplicity but finds modern life intruding upon that kind of world. His poetry is strong overall, though some pieces might have benefited from a stronger edit. The rhymes often feel forced, like nursery rhymes, a truly inappropriate tone for their subjects. Nonreligious readers should also be aware that Jiambalvo writes from a Catholic perspective, which reveals itself in varying degrees throughout the work. However, this book isn’t only for believers, and those who aren’t put off by such subject matter will find his treatment of religion both subtle and powerful. Overall, Jiambalvo manages to write poetry about current events that feels timeless.
A prolonged meditation on modern life as seen through an ancient glass.