(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Fracas, a disturbance of some sort, but nothing too serious, is an apt title for this collection of poems that rejoices more in language than in profundities of observed life or philosophical discourse. That said, this slender volume should be read for the number of wryly accurate and arresting reflexive portrayals of the poet at work as in, “One Extreme to Another.” Employing the sort of sound and word play that make it a delight to read to an intelligent child, the poem is a poet’s traditional plea for sleep, full of the visual and sound imagery of walruses asleep, or nearly so, on an ice floe. “O Walrus, maximum yawn,/ spare us one/ of your lullabies./ We’ve scribbled and drawn,/ dusk to dawn,/ we’re weary of truth and lies.” The intelligent child, by the way, is perhaps the central figure of “Quick Sketch,” a five-year-old girl inspecting the new neighborhood, hiking “down the road,/ wearing a bikini, high rubber boots/ and a black lace shawl,/ and introduces herself to the neighbors.”

Paul Violi deftly sketches urban experiences such as being mugged by a deft trio of young professionals in “Tycho, Tyche.” Contemplating the materials of his New York universe useful perhaps for a poem, he is interrupted; “this little black kid/ sticks a gun against my heart,/ another jabs one in my back/ and a third rifles my pockets,/ so cool and professional and polite/ in their long black raincoats/ and short-brimmed hats that/ I’m frozen, speechless,/ as they escort me around the corner....”

Allusive, witty, and written in a lively lingo full of surprising turns and ironic commentary, Fracas will satisfy on many levels.