In a literary landscape littered with ponderous rhymes and too-confessional verse, it is a joy to come across a strong collection of light poetry, works that flit across the world’s brighter surfaces while only occasionally sneaking beneath to peek at darker depths.
Fontinel-Gibran’s slick, slim new collection is a mostly gratifying sequence of what one might call diversionary poetry that delights even as it defies the genre’s subtle pull toward more doleful themes. The sense that this is a happier verse experiment is confirmed early, in adjacent works entitled “The Blue Law” and “Officially Desserted.” The first is a celebration and origin story of the ice cream sundae. The second is simply an unbroken, page-long list of sweets, from Bananas Foster to Burnt Sugar Marzipan to Coconut Glamour Cake—mouthwatering. Other poems take up or touch upon the joys of gustation, among them “Fringe Benefits,” “The Danes’ Delight” and “Make the Coffee!” Yet Fontinel-Gibran by no means confines herself to culinary themes. “Don’t You Remember; How to Play Flag Football?” sings the joys of gym class: “Even girls play football in gymnasium class; dreaming of wearing one day perhaps an amber football mum on Homecoming night.” “Geoffrey Gopher Would!” playfully laments the rodent tearing up the front yard: “There were just, no way to convey to him, to stop digging up those fucking mounds.” In most of these pieces, Fontinel-Gibran writes in line-less prose poetry, a daring choice, the only drawback being that it sometimes lets the author slip into purple language, as in “The Lonely Number”: “It’s true, by way of separating out from all other organisms, physical objects and realities, the enlightened being grows into a specified, philosophical, regular ‘unit’ on an everyday basis, that ultimately reveals itself through being at peace and in harmony with all other aspects of existence.” This abstraction threatens to fall away into drivel. But there’s more fun than philosophizing in this volume, and it’s well worth the read.
Fontinel-Gibran has earned her poetic license.