The poems in Feinland’s (King of the Lions and Other Animal Stories, 2012, etc.) new collection vacillate between offensive and amusing, coasting into hopefulness and ending on a neutral note.
In the beginning of this book of poetry, Feinland flips death on its head and morphs it into a well-illustrated attempt at comedy that could give readers nightmares. In “The Story of Smiley,” a constantly frowning man’s mother-in-law comes to town and gets caught under a trolley wheel—“And since then, Smiley had a smile on his face for real!” In “A Lion Goes to School,” a drunken zookeeper leave a lion’s cage unlocked, and the lion eats a teacher in front of the children. The collection also inspects the absurdities of religion while poking fun at it all. It presents love and marriage as a black hole of misery, injury or death, as in “Taking Initiative,” with threats of “I will O.J. you!” and using a knife to “Lorena Bobbitt” a husband. If readers aren’t turned off by the bleak outlook that feels like a Shel Silverstein/Stephen King collaboration, they’ll find their way to more neutral territory in the “More Base Ballads” and “True Prophecy” sections, which encompass religious topics but don’t completely shed the pessimistic views of human nature. From there, sections called “Ballads of Hope” and “Light and Sweet” balance the darkness of the beginning sections with light that is, by contrast, gleefully bright. Finally, the book ends again on a neutral tone with a section called “From the Horse’s Mouth.” The most gripping sections tend to gloomy, sometimes even depressing rides through the dark spots of human nature, while the imagery in the happier, sentimental poems seems watered down.
Though not a must-read, this poetry collection is sure to evoke an emotional reaction as it twists readers’ thoughts to help them achieve a new perspective.