Over the next few weeks or months, I will post all my reviews (“Tom’s Celebrations”) that appeared in Redactions: Poetry, Poetics, & Prose (formerly Redactions: Poetry & Poetics) up to and including issue 12. After that, my reviews appeared here (The Line Break) before appearing in the journal. This review first appeared in issue 6/7, which was published circa mid-2006.
Paul Allen’s His Longing (The Small Penis Oratorio) (FootHills Publishing) opens with “Prologue: Charity” to let us know that the small penis, & the anxieties that come with the small penis, will be used as a bigger metaphor for all of us who have one disturbing abnormality that is difficult to deal with in our daily lives. The life of the small penis will parallel, almost, the life of The Elephant Man.
The book moves into “1. Initial Consultation,” a hilarious (for us to watch) but embarrassing (to experience) situation for the man with the small penis. A situation filled with all the ego-painful moments one could have at a doctor’s office when others learn of the small penis. Best of all this poem doesn’t click shut, it slams shut, but I’ll leave that for you to experience.
The second poem, “2. Air Condition,” brings in the religious aspects that Allen deals with, but more perversely as a porno shop becomes a temple & the passed out man in back, a bum whose “face, a fielder’s glove — that worn in, that burnished – snagging every line drive kissed off that sweet spot,” becomes a priest-like figure providing forgiveness, “the blessing of a curse,” for the small penis.
The seriousness & religiousness of the poems moves into the using of Luther & Jesus as analogs to his condition. (Later we will meet Calvin & an encounter between John & Jesus.)
The movement between the hilarious, jocoserious, & serious pervades throughout, & it is worthy for us who also have anomalies (like a mole on the face or an outie belly button) that consume our thoughts. It’s a book about being cursed, coping with the curse, facing the curse, & overcoming the curse. I leave this book with new confidences in myself & in the poetry of Paul Allen.//