Sunday, December 11, 2011

Review of Craig Sernotti's Forked Tongue by J.S. Watts

I confess I have struggled with Forked Tongue, the debut poetry collection by Craig Sernotti. Some of the poems in it I do quite like and some I find quite amusing; “Things to Do Today” for example, with its numbered list of extreme and surreal activities for the day, culminating in the dry final line, “wait to be arrested”. I don’t know if it’s really poetry, but it is funny. Herein, however, may lie the root of the problem. Craig Sernotti himself is quoted as saying, “The poetry in ‘Forked Tongue’ is mostly for people who don’t like poetry.” Not surprisingly, I don’t consider myself to be one of those people. I actually like poetry, which is just as well really, as I write it and review it for magazines specialising in it. One might therefore think that there is something contradictory in asking a poetry reviewer to review a book written for people who don’t like poetry.

Sernotti is also quoted as saying this is a book which will be appreciated by people with “a warped sense of humour.” In theory, there should be a better match here. Friends and family frequently tell me that my sense of humour, or what passes for one, is warped. It is probably what enables me to appreciate poems like “Anxiety” with its quirky lines,

“Steal all the porridge you can
from those goddamn bears”

and culminating in the less than reassuring ending of traditional fairy tale reassurance,

“I will tell you everything ends
happily ever after
whenever you need to hear it”.

Yet other poems in this collection leave me totally cold and, to my mind, often achieve “warped” without any accompanying humour. Perhaps I am just a poetry loving, old fuddy duddy at heart, but the themes of sex, dreams and death running through the collection became boring after I had read the fifth “I had a dream” poem, or the sixth one dealing with blow jobs and cunnilngus. Poems like “Dream” (the one on page 24, not the one with exactly the same title on page 17), with its punch line of shaking John Updike’s hand whilst wearing a rubber glove that had been used to clear out a blocked toilet, strikes me as simply gross for the sake of it.

Judging from the reasonably lengthy list of acknowledgements at the back of the book, many of the poems in “Forked Tongue” have previously appeared in small magazines, so there must be a number of people who do not struggle with poetry like this and who are entertained by its gross-out humour. All I can say is, it takes all sorts.

Forked Tongue by Craig Sernotti is published by Blue Room Publishing, Blue Room Publishing

Author bio:

J.S.Watts lives and writes in the flatlands of East Anglia. Her poetry, short fiction and reviews are published in a variety of magazines and publications in Britain, Canada, Australia and the States including: Ascent Aspirations, Envoi, The Journal, Polluto and The Recusant. Her debut poetry collection "Cats and Other Myths" is published by Lapwing Publications. For further details see J.S. Watts.

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