Reviewed by Dianne K. Salerni for PODBRAM
Mugging for the Camera is a collection of light verse and wit by poet, photographer, and graphic artist R. J. Clarken. Described as “An Album of Odd Poetry Snapshots,” this slim novel will surprise and delight you with its quirky, upbeat perspective on life, love, language, and totally bizarre news stories. Many of Ms. Clarken’s poems have been previously published in The Daily Haiku, Sol Magazine, Asinine Poetry, and Trellis Magazine, and this collection brings them together for the first time. Mugging for the Camera is divided into twelve sections devoted to such topics as urban (and suburban) life, weird news, famous dead people, literary parodies, and word play.
Apparently, Ms. Clarken never met a word she couldn’t write a poem about, and readers should prepare to have their vocabulary expanded—or at least poked and prodded. Can you say sialoquent without spitting? Do you know which recent politician caused a scandal with an episode of esquivalience? Can you find even one rhyme for Ytterbium, let alone describe its rare earth metal properties in iambic pentameter?
But Ms. Clarken does not spend all her energy bending the English language. The world news proves to be a source of inspiration for her sublime and ridiculous “snapshots.” In Holland, thrill-seekers pay top euro for live entombment at “Fun Burials,” and in Spain, an energetic couple’s lovemaking sends them through the ceiling (of the hotel room below them). In both cases, this quirky poet-journalist wittily captures the moment for us. Literature takes a hit, too, as she reduces Hamlet, Jane Eyre, and The Wizard of Oz to haiku length. Makes you wonder why Baum, Bronte, and Shakespeare had to be so wordy! (If it even was Shakespeare—and Ms. Clarken doesn’t neglect to summarize that little controversy as well!) My personal favorite, however, is a work-related doggerel entitled Cover Your Ass inspired by a quote from comedian Mike Binder (“Never moon a werewolf”). If you don’t have a werewolf as your boss, you surely have one in the family or the neighborhood and can appreciate the wisdom of, as Ms. Clarken puts it, “keeping your buttocks dressed.”
Overall, Mugging for the Camera is a delightful little book that highlights the silly and ridiculous in our lives. Highly recommended for lovers of word play and haiku and readers who just want a good chuckle.
R. J. Clarken's Assinine Poetry page
Another review of Mugging for the Camera by Dianne