Miles David Moore
Similar to the old hidden-ball trick that plagued base runners like this reviewer as a child, Moore puts a lot of serious stuff first, possibly with the assumption that reviewers won't get past page 32. Some do, and find such as the following:
The last thing Fatslug saw before falling asleep on the sofa was the TV turned to one of the artier cable channels when a Russian cartoon came on (or maybe Bulgarian -- the credits were entirely in Cyrillic). It was about a couple and their pet. The husband was blue, the wife a hen, the pet a worm with a man's face and they, like the building they lived in, were covered with gray pustules of putrefaction. They spoke in shrieks and grunts while their Victrola played incomprehensibly passionate Slavic ballads, when a knock rattled their door. A visitor wearing Homburg, mustache and mask and laughing likeVincent Price gave them a box of hard candy.... from "Fatslug Celebrates"
This very funny description of those surreal Eastern European cartoons of the late Western Empire's glory days is then followed by Fatslug's waking up hours later to a news broadcast no less surreal, and in Italian. Aside from its very evocative observations, giddy tone, and bouncy three beat line (well, almost three almost all of the time), the poem's meaning requires no critic's line by line elucidation. Instead, it's content and the method used to convey it are satisfying in and of themselves. I don't think this would a very popular piece at Harvard, nor all of the other Fatslug poems in this section. But then, as a literary figure, Fatslug probably wouldn't fit in a chair that small.
It is that no nonsense, direct approach to irony or comedy that makes Moore's work in these poems so appealing. Of course, wan blondes tanned for that copper-plated look and bulging here and there are also appealing. Perhaps a better word would be accessible, although in the context of some wan blondes that might be considered offensive.
COME NEAR ME AND I'LL KILL YOU!" Glaring through the cherry-blossomed streets, the biggest sticker on the red rustbucket pickup slaps Fatslug and everyone else sitting on the bus's left side. The pickup's driver, a Woodstock blonde -- straight stringy hair and Led Zep fanning out from her open window, a worn flannel shirt hanging like a tent over past-ripe breasts -- stares stonily ahead, trailing behind her, "IS THAT YOUR FACE, OR DID YOUR PANTS FALL DOWN?" Armored against the world by a motorized punch in the nose, she is safe, separate, discrete in her indiscretion. Obviously, she knows Fatslug is on the bus... from "Fatslug and the Bumper Stickers"
In case you wondered what happened after The Electric Kool Aid Acid Test, this poem of being nudged out of the stagnant flow and hitting the great Superhighway at 55 might give you an idea. As before, Moore has little use for post-Eliot subtleties of reference nor for that great Modernist's posture of being on a platform too high to notice the world of other contemporaries. Instead, Moore chooses, as do many Expansive poets, to refer to the places, the pace and familiar faces of the time we're living in. One might wish that Moore would investigate a little more the utility of meter and rhyme in working such territory, which he does with great effect in other poems, but this will do.
He materializes from the camouflage of President's Park, and weaves around the Treasury Building's wrought-iron fence, his sneakers kicking a soft-drink cup. A ponytail trickles from the back of his helmet and down his battle fatigues. His knapsack has a ponytail too -- fluorescent orange cord, dangling to the sidewalk. FREAK ALERT! FREAK ALERT! Fatslug shifts into warp-speed.... to get past this idiot. from "Fatslug Meets a Poet"
Rude, that. The poem then goes on to neatly mock such a poet's refusal to notice the details of life visible to any good eye in a very late 20th century American neighborhood. This is a major theme in Moore's Fatslug sequence, concluding with "Call from a Fan," a dramatic monologue delivered by a woman who, though she has a fantastically busy life as a "housewife from Fauquier County," wants to participate in a poetry slam. Her detailing of her life is more interesting than most poems you'll ever hear at a reading of poetry, because they're so well-observed.
Time for the serious stuff, then, because well-observed is what they are. Back to page 12, and "Dead Boy in the Road at Fredericksburg," a Civil War poem, increasingly common from southern writers, that looks at the war as wars should be looked at, not as a heroic exercise, but as a disaster that could have been prevented by sensible human beings.
"You're pictured blankly, in all-neutral tones. Flung like a starfish on the trampled sod, You lie still as Virginia takes your bones And yields them up to Brady and to God. At least your family was spared the horror Brought to our time at six in living color. But not the anguish of the empty chair At supper, or the last of each cross word, Or half-dreamed listening to hear your bare Feet on the stairs..."The use of the stave of six stanza, ABABCC, one of Matthew Arnold's favorites, risks a sound to the poem which might contradict its message, but, as John Masefield's use of rime royal, Moore manages a rhythm using enjambment and caesura that conveys a tone of grave seriousness, without which this poem would lose its very strong effect. It's necessary to hear this, however; poetry, a performance art from its beginning, and practiced as such very well by Moore, needs to be heard, particulary when it uses devices as rhyme and what have already been mentioned in Moore's handling of line endings and breaks.
Between the gum and the underwear displays, the purple plastic hen twirls on her dimestore weathervane and squawks electrically for a quarter... from "Plastic Hen."
From this slight but vivid poem that swoops from a still life to a moment of magic, to the Fatslug sequence's mordant humor, to the seriousness of such poems as "A Face from Tianmamen" and "Stranger at the Wheel," Moore puts many pictures up in his gallery, most of which are well worth the wait and none of which require an essay about their meaning. He writes so well using meter, stanza and rhyme that one wishes he would do more of it, exploring its facility not only in serious poems such as "Confederate Boy..." but especially in reinforcing the punch of comic poems. But the complaint is not so large as it would be if the content, sharp observation, and vivid and modern diction were not present, as they are and in great abundance.
The Bears of Paris is recommended. Arthur Mortensen
Return to home page.