CHRIS STROFFOLINO Reviews
TFS by Mary Dacorro
Mary Dacorro’s new manuscript TFS (for Technicolor Firing Squad) uses a range of poetic strategies to critique as if from outside, but also to speak from within, the “seedy” belly of the beast of the Military/Infotainment complex, and the sinister, often subliminal role, it plays in identity formation. The personal and the political come together in Dacorro’s edgy poetry; in contrast to most official psychological theories of human development that place an over-emphasis on the family romance, Dacorro understands and emphasizes the foundational role that immersion into various electronic babysitters from infancy has on our identity formation. “Techno-pop Desires” and “Techno-tramp Disorder” forcefully confront the beast unleashed by 21st century mass-culture addiction in a perfect (combustible) blend of suffering and satire. Her, at time, wry, sidewise glance, is as at home in the absurdity of electronic mass-pop culture as is a strip-club, or abstract emotional (American) city-scape, as in the sharp imagistic juxtapositions of “Metropolis:”
‘Twin towers that tremble into dust
Fossil-fuel apple-pie slush
Endless freeways ant-like cars
Stupefied blow-out sales….
Stadiums as far as the eye can see
Slaughter-houses slave-labor tenements
Up elevators up city halls
Up shady and forgotten stories….
Crass commercials curl the grass
Along the concrete wasteland…. (13)
On the other hand, TFS also contains sadder, more empathetic, elegies, eulogies, for casualties of this culture, victims of hate crimes, whether LGBT (“Dear Fabian”), Palestinians (“Gaza Blood”) or fallen soldiers (“Coming Home,” “Memorial Day,” “Collateral”), and “Static” is the kind of beautiful “weary song” that comes out of the doom felt by many as we helplessly witness our towns becoming displaced by gentrification. Dacorro also gives herself permission to “grandstand” or scream in poems such as “Star Spangled Diatribe” and “Maga’s Demented Fallacy.” Yet, ultimately, Dacorro is able to scratch out an alternative to the unnatural and inhumane “American way of life” that we had been socialized into now revealed as “Bio-gangersterism profit bound/ Sterling opportunities mimicking designs/ And energy of Nature.” (13). Although Dacorro is well aware of the risk that writing about these terrors could make things worse (“This is what happens/ When body politics/ invade my solitude”), there’s still a sense of an alternative that is tenacious enough not to be fully drowned:
Why can’t we have a conversation—
With the prairies and the forests
From hubris to uman
Run business like a redwood (“Quagmire”)
And, in this sense, the quieter poems that may seem slighter on first reading, like “Sleep” and “Incessant” gain more traction as a testament to her poetic faith. Ultimately, there’s an exuberance, and buoyancy (as well as piercing wit and humor) in this collection, with its vow to “dwell from dawn to gloom/ in the atmosphere of human thought,” ending with a powerful ode to “The Power of Books,” and their “magnetic lure.” And while many books are surely as toxic as technicolor firing squad (“the lies of white history”), the book ends with a beautiful book-dance:
“Metaphors cross over like bridges,
Syllables vibrate like pendulum oscillates.
Up and down the musical scales,
Black hole’s terrifying pull, nightmares of E=mc2
As the lightning pause before thunder explodes.
As a fly to a spider, as a moth braves the flame.
As bees obey, suck the sugary nectar.
Like a spark tended by embers,
Power and wrench curiosity’s questions
Like diamond blade cuts illiterate thinking
Suddenly open close-minded views….”
And I’ve totally neglected the child-like charm of her quasi-pantoum, “Stange Birthday.” Dacorro is a prolific poet to continue to pay attention to.
Chris Stroffolino is the author of 5 full-length books of poetry, including Slumming It In White Culture (Vendetta Books) and the forthcoming Drinking From What I Once Wore: Recent & Selected Poems, 1995-2017 (Crisis Chronicles). He’s also published a memoir, and two books of essays of literary and culture criticism. He currently lives in Oakland, and teaches at Laney College.