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 10, which was published circa April 2007.
“How many men are worthy of a memory?” asks Steve Fellner in the poem “Blind Date with Cavafy.” I ask how many men are worthy of a fantasy. At least one – & it is Fellner in Blind Date with Cavafy (Marsh Hawk Press), which was the winner of the 2008 Thom Gunn Award for Gay Male Poetry and the winner of the 2006 Marsh Hawk Press Poetry Prize.
In these poems, we see how the fantastic thinks in Fellner, Cavafy, Socrates, Fellner’s family members, and more. More specifically, the book is a graph of Fellner’s mind with reality and fantasy as the x- and y-axes and with the poems curving towards the fantasy axis.
I think these fantasies, which are everyday fantasies, & not like dragons and fairies, allow Fellner, to a certain degree, to persist/survive in reality, even when the fantasy isn’t his. Consider his history teacher with Alzheimer’s who misremembers the date of the Spanish Civil War but the students later learn the correct date. Consider how this false date became a reality. A reality so real, more real than the correct date, that Fellner provides the false date as an answer in another class, & everyone believed him, “No one questioned it.” It’s this inaccuracy and how others grasp it that sustains Fellner. The fantasy of sustaining the false date & the memory of it “stopped / me [him] from killing myself [himself] / on at least nine different occasions.”
For Fellner, it’s the fantasy world that provides hope. Consider the lines from “Upon Discussing Whether We Should Condescend to Science-Fiction Writers,” where he is talking about aliens invading Earth.
Let’s pretend we’ll take their advice [. . . ] Let’s pretend that on other planets seeing the end of infinity is even more common than winning $37,687,324.90 in the state lottery. Except you expect it to happen every other day.
And even though Fellner can be a god in these fantasies – he can create, script, and direct how he wants life to move forward – Fellner is still aware of the realities of life:
Don’t yell too hard. You may wake up and realize life isn’t like that. It isn’t really like anything. But life does like itself and it needs you.