Reviewed by Ruth Latta
Mario Writes a Poem a Day for a Year, and So Can You
by Mario Milosevic
Green Snake Publishing
October 28, 2021, ISBN 978-1-949644-62-3
American novelist and poet Mario Milosevic decided to keep his poetic skills in good shape by writing a poem every day for a year. Mario Writes a Poem a Day is Milosevic’s fourth year-long project. His previous ones have led to three poetry collections: Animal Life, Fantasy Life and Love Life.
In Mario Writes a Poem a Day, he includes with each poem some information about what inspired it, why he chose its form and what we might do along the same lines. He provides useful prompts, and shares his philosophy of writing and provides prompts, such as “Write down all the interesting things you see when you visit a new place.” and “Look for alternate realities in your life.” His poems often include the flora and fauna of Arizona, where he lives; for instance, this collection includes a poem is about quail, another about a roadrunner.
Why write poetry? Milosevic says it sharpens your mind, encourages concise writing, helps you appreciate the world, and most of all, is fun. He encourages aspiring poets to “take advantage of the long tradition of verse” by familiarizing themselves with the work of other poets. I was pleased with this, as aspiring poets who have asked my help too often displayed total ignorance of great works of the past. Milosevic also tells budding poets to trust their instincts, quoting Allen Ginsberg’s principle: “First thought, best thought.”
Many of Milosevic’s poems have clever metaphors; for instance, in “Bugs” we read:“Ants work hard. They need a good trade union.” In “Morning Blessed by Cookery Utensils” he speaks of spoons“ready to mix it up”, measuring cups “nestled into an orderly and accurate hierarchy”, and “knives, sharp-witted with cutting remarks.”
Some of his poems reminded me of Pablo Neruda’s Odes to Common Things, which include odes to salt, socks and soap, among other objects. Here Milosevic writes a series of witty odes to punctuation marks. Of the comma, he says, “You are breath giver, telling us when to rest and gather air. The colon is “Like two bite marks, vampire punctures on the page.” Unlike Neruda, however, Milosevic’s verses are not political.
He advises poets not to look for unusual events or large subjects, but to write about the everyday. Write quickly, he says, to get your “truest, freshest work out from your heart and brain and onto the page.” Also, don’t worry too much about creating immortal lines; just do the work.
“Remember,” he writes, “even if only a few of your poems are any good, that’s still a good thing. He notes that, in baseball, a .300 batter, who hits the ball three times out of ten, is a star. By this standard, Milosevic is indeed a superstar.
About the reviewer: Ruth Latta’s poems have won Canadian Authors’ Association and Ontario Poetry Society awards and have appeared in periodicals, anthologies and chapbooks. Her new novel, A Girl Should Be will be published later this year.