Skip to main content

Mr. Rogers Kills Fruit Flies, by Scott Ferry, reviewed by Rusty Barnes

Mr Rogers Kills Fruit Flies

Scott Ferry

Main Street Rag 2020

53 pages



Scott Ferry is a poet of lengthy breath and a surreal logic, used to reveal the intricacies of a mind gently turned on itself. The book is divided into three sections: Mr. Rogers kills fruit flies; how to cross eyelid bridge; Divination by; each with its own character and concerns. Early in the first section, narrated by historical figures in unusual situations, Ferry stopped my poetry-musing--that pleasant state wherein one thumbs the book lovingly, looking for the good word--with the beginning lines of 'Joseph Campbell dreams of war.'

It started in the bathroom, mirror etched in ice,   

the razor's rhetoric on jawline tearing up

trees and children, and here in my home!

But I cannot leave Jean unbeknown

on the lanai. I look to the East, there

is a mountain of bodies skinned bare

like antelope. In the crater their identities

cave in, obtund. The lava waves fragrant

like hibiscus and rot. . .

The odd and surreal juxtaposition of ice in stanza one and lanai in st. two can't prepare us for the 'mountain of bodies' and the lava fragrant with hibiscus and rot. The poem continues, referencing spirits as disparate as Wonder Woman, Krishna, Hanuman, Sita, and finally Charon the ferryman, whom we find does not accept credit. I appreciate the willingness of the poet to direct the reader outside the poem and pleasantly down the rabbit hole of research via these casual mentions of Gods and beings. 

In the second section subtitled 'titles of children's books that will never be written' the reader finds a number of astonishing poems of genetic engineering (Gilly and the tiger wings) and fish cleaning an octopus (clockwise the sleeping octopus) and my favorite of these, "a bee in the maze of springs and wasps."

If my Queen wishes, I will go again,

past the poppies and the dripping ferns,

past the wasp Queen and the yellow-toothed den,

over the coils of high wires that crack and burn

to find the low moist strawberry beds

white and gold, and the blackberry stamens

between the taut thorns of rust and red

and the backlit lavender bulbs illumined.

I suppose there have been poems from bee POV before but I can't recall them, and if I could recall them I doubt they'd be this good. The easy inobtrusive off-rhymes and near-iambic lines guide us through the bee's journey out to serve its Queen and back to serve again. I don't think I'm such a romantic until I read poems like this one. It's a great poem.

Section three falters only a bit for me, as poems of divination force me to figure out the form of the divination rather than enjoying the form of the poem, but that doesn't mean there aren't great poems here as well. "Cleidomancy: by keys," is one such example, what appears to be a simple list poem is complicated when the narrator leaves the list-making and concentrates on the metaphorical key to the present, a list of what his spouse and child are doing, and the surprises embedded in their day.

As the poem begins, "Nothing to open. I cast them in order," it finishes with "I don't need any other keys. I don't want to know." The poet has come full circle to the present, and finding no divinatory keys to the present, he decides he doesn't want them anyway.

I don't know if I've done justice to the full round of complexity in these poems; they're not difficult to read, but they're intellectually heady, exciting. Especially in the first two sections, I find a poet and writer ready to take us out of our comfortable norms and try to show us something new. That's really as much as I can hope for in a poem or a book of poems. I'll look forward to whatever Ferry does next.


Popular posts from this blog

Ed Dorn's # 22 From Twenty-four Love Poems

                                               from Jacket The strengthy message here in #22 of 24 Love Songs can be summed up in two lines: ['There is/no sense to beauty. . .' and '. . .How/ the world is shit/ and I mean all of it] What I also like about this brief poem is the interplay between the title of the book and the subject of the poems (love/anti-love (which is not hate)): it's all a mass of contradictions, like love. And I have to say that the shorter poems of the Love Songs and the last book he wrote before dying (Chemo Sábe) seem to me much better and more memorable than the Slinger/Gunslinger poems. These (generally) later poems probably attempt less stylistically, but are more sure-handed, hacked from a soap bar, maybe. Easy to use, but disappear after use. In any case, Dorn is well worth the reading and re-reading, for me, though he'll never become one of my favorites. And doesn't every poet want that, dead or alive? ;-) #22 The agony

Jim Daniels

Half Days My daughter, thirteen, pale shred of herself, fought an unidentified infection in her spine as it softened her discs into disappearance. I’d unread that story if she were young and still listened to lullabies. After she got discharged, I set an alarm for two a.m. each night to shoot antibiotics into her port while she slept, her limp arm resting in my hand. Her return to school: half days—follow my dotted line smearing across months of sleepless breadcrumbs— at noon I idled high, anxious in the school driveway rattling off the latest test results in the zero gravity of fear. She startled me with the brittle thunk of the car door slam, then snapped at me for staring at her friends as they strolled across the street to the cafeteria, creeping them out, she said, embarrassed by illness like hard acne or a blooming hickey, wrong music or flakey hair, or the tacky middle-school jumper she no longer had to wear. I was there to drive her to

Paul Blackburn and Sexism

How does one respond to sexism in poets whose work seems to be filled with it, like Blackburn? The quick answer most people would give is: ignore it. Yet here I am, reading more and more, and yes, enjoying, the supposedly sexist work of Paul Blackburn and wondering why there isn't much if any criticism of his important work in the late 50s and 60s, when he served as gatekeeper and recorder of many readings which have helped establish the avant-garde presence and reading scene in New York as well as given us great historical insight into the poets associated at that time with the New York scene.  And of course I'm thinking about his poems, which kept him in the middle of things as a talent in his own right. It's not difficult, unfortunately to see why he's not read, and that makes me sad. His poetry is worth more than a few cursory footnotes to the era. I've come to the conclusion now, after dipping into the collected poems at length, but randomly, and reading fo