Sunday, March 15, 2015

Book Review: Wish I Could Dance, by Larry L. Fontenot

Wish I Could Dance is a collection of 21 poems by Texas poet Larry L. Fontenot.   The poems are all short -- most run between half a page and a page -- and, according to the 2008 Texas Poet Laureate, Larry D. Thomas, they are "infused with the glow of profundity."

Fontenot is no novice poet.  In 2000 he won the Alsop Review Poetry Competition, and he has had poems published in Poet's Canvas, Red River Review, and the now-defunct Sulphur River Literary Review.  His other chapbook, Choices & Consequences, won the 1996 Maverick Press Southwest Poets' Series Chapbook Competition.

The poems in Wish I Could Dance range from direct and to the point to abstract and hard to follow.  I'm not the best judge of poetry -- a lot of it simply goes right over my head.  However, I did seem to get most of the poems in this book (which, for me, is impressive).

Like a lot of modern poetry, Fontenot's poems are rooted in themes of failure and angst.  However, he broaches these subjects in an interesting way.  A couple of the poems in the book explore the idea of drowning, including "Swimming Lesson," which this stanza is taken from:

I understand this about water:
it pulls you to it as gravity
pulls apples to ground,
as death drags men toward
the center of the earth,
if only by a miserly six feet.

There is also a common undercurrent of lost memory, encapsulated by this line from "Evidence of the Moon," where Fontenot writes that he "aches to hold time still and carve footholds in memory."

"Cadaver Dogs" is a strong poem, written about a girl who was missing and presumed dead.  It is speculative in nature, and one of the darkest poems of the book.

"Two Sessions with an Analyst" is a poem I didn't understand, but even that one was well-written.  Take these lines, for example:

Even when you stand still
the angle of the sun
moves the dark space
out of bounds, like the life
you thought you had
under control.

Overall the poems in this book are smooth and well-written.  All are free verse, and Fontenot shows a good grasp of stanza use and line breaks.  The cover image is clever -- a photograph of two left feet, taken looking down.

Wish I Could Dance is a professionally printed 32-page chapbook.  It had a relatively low retail price of $7.00, but doesn't currently seem to be available for sale anywhere.  It was published by Dallas Poets Community Press in 2009, as the winner of their chapbook contest.  Anyone interested might be able to find a copy on eBay at some point, or an online used bookstore such as Powell's Books.  You can read the title poem here:

(Originally posted on, June 2009)


Charles Gramlich said...

I recognize his name. Not sure where I've seen him before. Good stuff, though.

Greg said...

He has some poems around online. This is the first work I've read by him.

Rhonda Parrish said...

I find reviewing poetry to be a super intimidating thing, but you did a good job on this one :)

Greg said...

Thanks Rhonda, I do too!

Dwarf Stars Award 2015

Dwarf Stars Award 2015