(Las Cruces, NM: Xenos Books, 2018)
The cover of Dellolio’s latest book, A Box of Crazy Toys, is bewildering due to the abstract cacophony one observes in the various entities, each a prism through which one might see. Taking the picture and title together, I assumed that the poems would be written through the prospective of “crazy” persons — but a box of toys ends up being a box of tricks for Dellolio. The scattered and varied toys mimic the skewed thought processes exhibited by this collection’s characters. Peter Dellolio’s poetry is skillfully crafted, incorporating elements of surrealism, cubism, realism, and abstract expressionism, similar to Salvador Dali’s paintings, giving rise to contemplation, reflection, and bewilderment.
Peter Dellolio is audacious in his use of imagery, and he extends his poetry by including personification, metaphor, and alliteration to further these poems’ strange worlds. The poem “Skeleton Accordions” opens the book with a twist of reality, providing appropriate space for exploration, as “Skeleton accordions / play for the ocean.” See how the skeleton in the poem is silent, and the accordions, though playing, can’t actually be played. Through these lines, Dellolio displays a sort of conflict between the inner self and outer behavior, a conflict that causes disconnect and (possibly) disaster. The poem clearly displays the disparity of reality and fantasy, reflecting the mellow bits of absurdity around us. Four lines later, he continues:
Silent films are
projected upon the
foreheads of children.
The little ones vomit
miniature skyscrapers made
of exotic African woods. Tonight
there is violence in the cobalt mansion.
The poems meditate on the idea of silence as these children are given scripts to follow, unable or not allowed to speak. Dellolio brings to mind Congolese children who are involved in every stage of mining — digging trenches, laboring in lakes, and mining for cobalt, as “Silent” evokes what is done to these children. One would expect the children to be playing, yet again there is a disconnect.
And Dellolio’s poems have an Alice in Wonderland feel, along with a hint of murkiness. His subjects bring up problematic events, but do so in a way where the events are distorted. In “Droplets of Blood” he writes,
A tiger with red clarinets
for legs is confused by
droplets of blood…
Dellolio is exploring here, layering images, jumbling them to mask what lies at the core. These lines manifest a kind of playfulness, while the images and metaphors place the reader in a spookish situation. He continues like this:
are being delivered to the
surgeon’s house. The blood
followed him home, to murder
him no doubt, while the tiger,
hypnotized by a spider radio…
We now become more involved in the mystery as the poem quickly moves into the realm of murder. Once again, the images transform from the ordinary to the absurd, and the poem highlights the relationship between magical elements and real world issues. Peter Dellolio’s poetry is purposefully distorted, creating a sense of otherworldliness as he explores a mysterious yet familiar venue.
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Aminah Abutayeb is a Professor at William Paterson University. She recently graduated from Fairleigh Dickinson University where she obtained her MFA in Poetry. She is a poetry reader at The Literary Review. Her work has appeared in Philadelphia Stories and Common Ground Review.
You can purchase A Box of Crazy Toys here.