by Frank Montesonti
Black Lawrence Press, August 2013
90 pages / $9.95 Buy from Black Lawrence Press or Amazon
In HOPE TREE, Frank Montesonti literally prunes How to Prune Fruit Trees by R. Sanford Martin. Accompanied by simple drawings, lovely interpretations from the original sketches, the book is one of erasure.
Literary erasure is not without its critics. Jeannie Vanasco, in “Absent Things As If They Are Present” noted that “in 1820, in the preface to Prometheus Unbound, Shelley called complete poetic originality a ruse: “As to imitation, poetry is a mimetic art. It creates, but it creates by combination and representation.” HOPE TREE does just that. HOPE TREE is a risk, one that the author acknowledges in The Foreward: “I have hesi-/tated / I was aware// I have tried to make/ my instructions simple”
HOPE TREE is an espalier of words, both visually and metaphorically. The title, a play on the original, is interesting. HOPE is derived from a portion of the original title, How tO PrunE. Montesonti has tipped his hand. Pruning is initially a brutal activity, but also a hopeful one. When done correctly, the tree thrives, produces more fruit and becomes even more strong and beautiful. If not, the results can be an ugly mess, possibly fatal. It is all about the balance between aesthetics and necessity, a combination of knowledge with a leap of faith.
The same can be said for writing poetry. It is never easy to part with a word or favorite line even when it is abundantly clear that it must be done. As difficult as it is to do with your own words, erasing someone else’s words, while it might seem easy, is a much more complex and difficult task. This is not an exercise in editing. It is an exercise in pruning in the original sense of the word, to cut where the most growth will occur. Montesonti aptly notes “the coarse frameworks / may be very beautiful //as they// choke off the circulation” (32).
October 4th, 2013 / 11:00 am