The poet states in the foreword that the idea for this collection came about as a result of personal upheaval occurring in his life. Often, poetry is penned as a release, and situations don’t necessarily take a “universal” tone. Instead, the poetry becomes a reflection or a reliving of the pain of the moment, and only the poet understands the deeper meaning of each selection. Is that the case with this collection? Step inside the big top and see what the ringmaster has to say.
Most of the selections deal with love or the diminishing of a relationship. Four poems really stand out in the collection. “Comet” questions why a person would return to a failed relationship, even if a significant amount of time has elapsed. The extended metaphor of the comet traipsing across the sky and being pulled into gravity causing an explosion is brilliant.
“Time Machine” has a fantastic sound quality. The reader should hear and feel the machine moving through time. Great rhythm!
“Food Poisoning (Part 1)” and “Food Poisoning (Part 2)” provide a contrast between a husband suffering from Alzheimer’s and his wife, who is watching him morph into an unrecognizable individual. Anyone who has had to experience someone affected by the disease will surely understand the emotional impact of the poem.
The book is divided into two parts. All titles in Part One relate to science or scientific theory. The poet makes good use of science terms within the poems to form strong images. Titles in Part Two are varied. A positive aspect is that each selection is prefaced with a question or brief explanation which helps the reader focus on the author’s intent.
One problem with writing to draw emotions from within and put them on paper is finding commonality with the reader. Sure, most of us have experienced love and some of us have lost love, but several themes of some of the poems will not allow the reader to empathize. Rosenquist states in the foreword that every person in every culture has had experience with the topics of his poetry, and that that makes this a strong anthology; however, over half the poems deal with love or broken relationships. After awhile, the emotion in each selection becomes too similar. Where’s the novelty of the love or the loss?
Titles either make the reader gravitate toward a book or pass it by. Rosenquist explains how he developed the book title: after reading the collection as a whole, he saw brilliant colors, and the circus metaphor was born. With a tangent toward scientific theory in the Part One titles, it seems a title based on these ideas might stand out even more. It’s an interesting contrast.
Overall, there are several strong poems, and the most are enjoyable to read, but some of the poetry might leave an experienced poetry reader (or poet) wanting more.