Monday, August 10, 2020


So, "Flea Circus", a poem by Tomas Q. Morin.He seems to be going for a dream-scape here, situated primarily in a circus context, a bad dream where apocalypse , grotesque distraction , deformations physical and emotional weave and curve through the narrator's attempt to unburden himself of deeply buried traumas that compel him to speak of the world in Big Top imagery. It's a bad dream he's trying to get across, and a bad poem is the result, starting with the grown-over and obvious gimmick of using a circus to expose an internalized ugliness--the reader quickly gets the idea of the inversion under construction, that the surface elements of the circus promising joy, wonderment, entertainment is naught but a chipped and curling veneer barely concealing the opposing qualities, despair, isolation, hunger, pain, a permanent and ongoing depression in the trudge toward death.

This is an idea that can still be made to work if there had been a sharper focus on the particular images; Morin attempted several associative leaps here, asking us to link fleas, dog meat, cheap theatrics, empty philosophy and the desire to make the marginalized, the mongrelized, the pathetic and starving among our population into a freak show, an audience to which bogus cures can be sold to and who can, in turn, be turned into a commodity who’s misery can be made salable to a pop cultural predicated on perverting and selling a consumer's reality back to them at a steep and exacting price. Morin's imagery ought to have been cold, clear, spare and sharp as glass shards in their seeming isolation; dreams needn't be a flow, as he seems to believe, they can also be sharp, abrupt and jarring. What we could have used here was the sense of something broken that cannot be repaired. Morin mumbles instead, and his connections, something a reader can intuit, are just garbled in transmission.

The problem with "Flea Circus" isn't that it doesn't make sense, but rather that it doesn't give you a visceral sense of any conflagration of emotions struggling to come to being. There is a potential for dramatic tension here, of clarity and relief being thwarted by the many-headed demons and intractable issues of character, but it is defused by language that leaves the reader with the idea of someone who fell asleep on an arm; the awakened person knows the arm is there, but it is dull, prickly, and nearly lifeless. All one can do is hang it over the side of the bed and pray it comes alive before one arises to face another day and chance to find inspiration to write another confused poem.

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