Explored, Uncharted

Joe Amato's Symptoms of a Finer Age

reviewed by Robert Bové

In this new collection of poems, Symptoms of a Finer Age, Joe Amato takes himself and any reader up to it on a journey through an absolutely shattered world in which everything is up for grabs, but where what is grabbed ends up slipping through the fingers like sand. Following his words takes something like courage, but the reward is something like a map. From "Allegories of writing":

all so marginal
so episodic
we learn to let go
in solitude

Symptoms is number 5 in the Vietnam Generation, Inc. and Burning Cities Press White Noise poetry series ( Amato uses a number of voices and styles, none of which approaches easy reading, although most of it is quite accessible--and original.

From "Allegories of writing":

     /writing so might make writing it so: i cross 
my fingers     when i wish, / hoping, having been led to believe that     
       anything is possible, if only / we would stop     pretending that 
anything is possible.


     /the function of criticism 
at the present time is the function
     of / criticism at the present time: my profound skepticism is      
rooted in an / unconscious desire to return to the eighteenth     
century: i like my / oatmeal with plenty of brown 

Flushing Meadow from 1964 to 1965. It was the last time for him and for many of us that the world seemed whole. That, of course, is an exercise in nostalgia and not an accurate representation of the world. The world has never been "whole," though memory sure can give it that appearance. Amato defines it's actual shape, the world's. His vision is hard-won, and he doesn't suggest that simply reading his poems will impart it to the reader.

Amato simply makes it clear that such a vision is possible. That world--this one--may not be finer, but it surely is more real.

Original publication, GRIST On-Line WWW, May 16, 1995.(c) copyright 1995 by Robert Bové
Symptoms of a Finer Age, Copyright (c) Joe Amato 1994, Woodbridge, CT: Vietnam Generation, Inc. and Burning Cities Press, 96 pp., $12.00 perfect bound paper.
GRIST On-Line. May 1995. HTTP:// Contributing Editor: Robert Bové
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