Book Review: Spaghetti and Meatballs: Poems for Hot Organs by Mendes Biondo
What struck me first about Mendes Biondo’s Spaghetti and Meatballs: Poems for Hot Organ was how aggressive the sexuality of this new collection is. I wasn’t offended or bothered in any way by it, but raw physicality runs through the book. This sexuality, however, is not what I was left with after having read the English translations of Biondo’s Italian poetry. What I came back to was a new vision of the universal feeling of despair and loneliness we all feel, and the antidotes that he offers to that despair.
One of the more powerful poems is “The Earthquake.” As the poem begins, the narrator’s imaginary city is destroyed and people are left without homes. It is a tragedy, but the poem concludes:
it [the earthquake] will come and unite us like the last timeI really look forward to iteven though I know it’s not a good thingeven though I know they are not things to sayit will come and we will be so scarednot to want to feel alone anymore (24).
What is to be feared in this collection is internal lack, existential crisis. Those things on the outside, surrounding us are almost inconsequential. People might lose their jobs, their homes, even their cities and that is a good thing if it allows them to feel a little less lonely.
In “Simpson’s Syndrome, or: Trying to Run Away From Springfield,” he uses The Simpsons, Family Guy, South Park, and American Dad to present the difficulties those of us who must work for a living face, and the desperate hope we have for something external to pull us out of poverty:
it’s a hard way to dieawaiting I meanawaiting for something betteror for a spin of the magical wheel (33).
This reflects the opening poem’s ambivalence about the narrator’s move from his home country to America where he sought his fortune:
me with my hands still dirtyof mudof shitof gold (3).
These are painful poems because they hit so close to home for so many of us. The promise of wealth in America is difficult to reconcile with our everyday lives, and Biondo presents that concept clearly and well.
Spaghetti and Meatballs: Poems for Hot Organs by Mendes Biondo is a strong collection of the despair that is often a part of the immigrant experience. He is able to clarify that pain and show us what it means.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
John Brantingham is Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park’s first poet laureate. His work has been featured in hundreds of magazines and The Best Small Fictions 2016. He has ten books of poetry and fiction including The L.A. Fiction Anthology (Red Hen Press) and A Sublime and Tragic Dance (Cholla Needles Press). He teaches at Mt. San Antonio College. (Photo by Alexis Rhone Fancher.)
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