Spare Parts and Dismemberment by Josh Fernandez
R.L. Crow Publication (2011)
Fernandez's 70-page book of poems is heavy on the lyricism, but medium-rare on voice and scope. Ultimately, the ethos of his message gets gets muddled by the various incantations of wry, ironic, and vengeful that Fernandez imparts to the narrators in his poems. However, poems in which he uses simple registers convey great, undiluted wisdom.
For example, the narrator in "The Outsider" begins with a simple rumination, "I wonder what happened/ to that kid/," about a kid with a kinky physical defect, "who looked like/ a dropped potato-one cruddy eye/ too close to his nose," and ends with, "And I wonder if he knows/ that we still think of him/ from time/ to time." And the poem, "There Were More of Us," in which the speaker discusses his cousin, "Carlos, the dark-skinned boy/ built like a wild mustang" that joined a "Sureño/ gang/ and inked 3 dots". The speaker's cousin is dead by the end of the poem, "a cliche," but the final image is of Carlos' stone-cold hard demeanor, even in death, "At his funeral/ he still looked mad/ even with his eyes/ closed."
Fernandez is a journalist by trade, writing music and concert reviews for publications like Spin.com, and covering crime for the Sacramento News and Review. Therefore, Fernandez is a writer that has seen a substantial amount of municipal malfeasance, personal trauma, and chemical addiction. And, there is no doubt that Fernandez has at one point have inhabited some or all of the bleak scenarios in Spare Parts and Dismemberment, but there is little in the way of guidance, redemption, or the bigger picture to take away.
And, pretty soon all that holds the book together are the anecdotals of human frailty, and the power of personal saviors (like Crystal who appears in many of the poems; the book is also dedicated to her, albeit not solely.) To be fair, the book stands as testament to the health of independent publishers, like R.L. Crow, and the hale book market present in the U.S. and specifically in northern California. If you like Bukowski or John Fante, and find their fiction entertaining then this book might be for you. If you like Sharon Olds, or Jim Carroll, then Josh Fernandez poems might be for you. Say what you want about the poems, this young poet has poured their heart into this endeavor of a book, and any missteps must be taken at face value. This is, after all, a 70 page book of poems; with that number, some poems are just going to be stronger than others.
A Spanglish blog dedicated to the works, ruminations, and mongrel pyrotechnics of Yago S. Cura, an Argentine-American poet, translator, publisher & futbol cretin. Yago publishes Hinchas de Poesia, an online literary journal, & is the sole proprietor of Hinchas Press.