Friday, November 8, 2019


ODALISQUE--poems by Mark Salerno
Mark Salerno offers a selection of noir-inspired sonnets that tell a tale of cop and a hooker who start up a relationship that takes us on a tour of a mythical, distant, black and white Los Angeles of contemporary time. Shifting voices, locations, presenting the city as an amorphous spread of contradictions--a site where generations have settled, started anew and quite completed the paradises they tried to construct for themselves--Salerno offers up a terse diction that works splendidly in the sonnet form. Like the champion scribes of The Big Orange  Raymond Chandler and John Fante ,Salerno has created his texture and tone as he writes of the places and things his erstwhile lovers encounter and pass through; a squandered chance, an exhausted idealism, a world view made directionless by relentless short term pragmatism. This is the poet's ear for the language we all speak that has continually denies and embraces the cluttered and conflicted urban chaos that distracts and drives them at the same time.
To be without believing or just forget the dreamas when a former odalisque too late to get luckysettles on a set table in a dingy outlying suburbshe told her soul to leave her alone and it did sochastened by the memory of true life in the far westand a little roughed up in consequence of feelingwhen giving up becomes one way of staying aliveI was M. dilatory in my wanderings and a lost manhustled by a cutie girl and drenched in flop sweatfor my anxiety to know the really real or breathe airbetween seeming and being of the way she said couple-yalong with all the other beauty school graduatescooped up and portioned out running gags and shtickto save a fairy tale as I have scrupled to aver.
There is a particular punch and power to Mark Salerno's sonnet style, at first reading as if it were an incoherent clash of radio stations competing on the AM dial. But as one reads, as one absorbs the terrain, the local businesses and street names, the voices emerge, masculine and feminine identities switching sensibilities, the monologues revealing all the moods, every defense, every method of inoculating oneself against the prevailing truth that greets many a visitor , many a person who has come to stake their claim on a landscape of slippery concepts.

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