Thursday, March 12, 2015

Fantasy - Ben Fama (Ugly Duckling Presse)

Today's book of poetry:
Fantasy.  Ben Fama.  Ugly Duckling Presse.  Brooklyn, New York.  2015.

"Sunset", a four page prose poem, opens Fantasy by Ben Fama, and reading it is like the first time you do a drug that opens up new worlds.

Fama lets loose with one remarkably sustained howl at our current trajectory.

Fama literally bombards and overloads the senses in his run-on stream-of-brilliant-consciousness prose poems.

Then he inserts one of these little bon-bons:


i would
make out
with you
hold hands
smoke weed


Ben Fama's sense of humour eats monsters for breakfast.  These poems feel as though they were written by a sky-diver in mid-fall/flight, a luge racer on LSD, the last bloody man standing.

Fama is not ahead of the curve, he is the curve, bending the world to his narrative with Hunter S. Thompson/Fran Lebowitz gusto and zeal.

These damn poems make you feel like you are inside the mind of a higher order of alien - processing everything current about the earth and doing it at inhuman speed.  It's a kaleidoscope that is ferociously entertaining.

Frank O'Hara

The only time I wish
other people heard my thoughts
is when I put your name
right now I'm thinking
I wish you were still alive
so I could be your partner
whether in art or life
I'm not really sure
mostly life I think
but they say
life imitates art
so who knows


It is completely unfair of me to rant poetic about the longer poems of Ben Fama and then not include them.  They make up the biggest part of Fantasy, and they are as tasty as your favourite dessert.

The longer poems in Fantasy challenge inclusion in Today's book of poetry but they are splendid catalogues, social registers, stylish lists with a Jim Carroll New York cool and a Joyce Carol Oates smart.

We took turns reading the longer poems out loud here at the office.  The interns took turns.  There was howling laughter, much looking up references, copying down lines to repeat later and generally just causing a joyous ruckus.  All thumbs up for Ben Fama here.

Wayne Koestenbaum queries about Fantasy "how did Fama invent a tone so perfect and icy, so equal to our times?"  And he is exactly right.  How?

The Line of Beauty

I love summer, the luxury of poetry, gin
and tonic, quinine lost in juniper


These short poems are really a tease.  Ben Fama's Fantasy as a whole is a masterwork and perhaps a masterpiece, only time will tell.

Today's book of poetry always likes it when anyone gives a tip of hats, props, to Saint Margaret of Atwood, one of Canada's sacred treasures.  Fama does that.

Fama is firing on all cylinders in this fine, fine, fine book of poems.  

Three 'fines' only because four would look ridiculous - "and a man in my position can't afford to be made to look ridiculous."

Ben Fama

Ben Fama is the author of several chapbooks and pamphlets, including the artist book Mall Witch (Wonder), Cool Memories (Spork), Odalisque (Bloof), and Aquarius Rising (UDP). His writing has appeared in The Believer, Denver Quarterly, Boston Review, Jubilat, Lit, and The Brooklyn Rail, among others. He is the co-founder of Wonder, and lives in New York City. Fantasy (UDP) is his first full-length poetry collection.

Sometimes something gets written and it surprises you, though it feels familiar. An early-twenty-first century decadence with its adderalls. Still the colloquials and the coteries of the New York School, but now with selfies, with crying selfies even. And klout scores. And there is fashion week, the Miami, the Los Angeles. Tans. Pools. I read Fantasy again and again, thinking I could learn to recite its spell on my own. It is a book about an end. An end of our economic empire. Of the fantastical expansion of income. And the poems here just keep going. They keep going to work. They plan what to do when one encounters an active shooter situation. Sort of. Because there is no plan really that makes sense except maybe to keep showing up to work stoned.

Ben Fama’s softly amalgamated new book, Fantasy, quietly elicits states of mind that we do and do not continue to inhabit. Memory traces, evacuations of past ruins pile up under present day linguistic and textual edifices. The socio-political erupts gently at the edges of fanboy/fangirl communiqués in which “fundamentalists decried jolie for using her wealth to surmount death and god.” In Fantasy, Fama uses his poetic intelligence to override dilemmas of understanding, and agitate all our ADLs (activities of daily living)—no small task for these overripe poetic times.

Fama has many faces, and fame comes in many sorts and sizes—from the one-week notoriety of the cover story to the splendor of an everlasting name (I may be quoting), i.e., Anaïs Nin commiserates with Trent Reznor about the fact that Kate Moss’s tan lines are, right now, more famous than either one of them.Fantasy is a Zipcar to cruise by such commiseration on the way to a resort Google maps can’t locate, but that “if you can’t afford it,” at least you can “affect it,” and there’s still “Glamour all night.”

Ben Fama
reading at Space Space
video: Bianca Stone


Poems cited here are assumed to be under copyright by the poet and/or publisher.  They are shown here for publicity and review purposes.  For any other kind of re-use of these poems, please contact the listed publishers for permission.

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