Forked Tongue, by Craig Sernotti, Published by Blue Room Publishing. Elynn Alexander for Full Of Crow Press.
Nothing’s out there, so stop looking
Nothing’s inside, so stop retching
If you follow Craig Sernotti, you will probably find that these poems represent the style that you expect from him, and that is a style that you probably feel strongly about- you either like it, or you don’t. There are topics that some readers are just not comfortable with: penises, blowjobs, vibrators, urine, big tits, flatulence. I don’t think Sernotti cares.
I think it is possible to respect what a poet is trying to do even if it isn’t “your thing”, and I think that even if you fall into that category that you will find several places where Sernotti still reaches you.
Sernotti assembled this collection from poems that have appeared in web and print, and Forked Tongue is available now from Blue Room Publishing in both print and ebook formats.
In a review by Kirsty Logan for Pank, she points out a certain unevenness to the chosen pieces- differences in quality- suggesting that the collection as a whole might have been stronger with different choices as far as what to include from the range of Sernotti’s work.
I think this is a typical response to many poetry “collections”, particularly when pieces are brought together from various places. We often look for cohesion, for unity, and a sense that the work stands as a whole beyond the sum of its parts. Certainly there are poems that stand out, and I think the problem is that this raises the bar on our expectations of him. We like the work, but we see this other side, and we want him to go there. In particular, Sernotti’s surreal and strange elements, his dreams, the places where images are twisted, scenes become odd:
“Songs of Myself”: I am singing my life/ I have gone mute/I am pulling off my nipples/I am knuckle deep in you
“Nothing Left To Give”: I tear off pieces/ of my face, put them/ into your waiting hands
I think that Sernotti will continue to grow and evolve as a poet, keeping some of the crassness as a feature of his style but perhaps developing in some new directions. I want to be clear in saying that I don’t personally take exception to his style and subject matter and I am not suggesting that he should change. I am saying that I anticipate some seasoning over time, and that some of his best work will be the work that is to come.