Master Singer, Cauldron Maker, Acrobat
Frank Fagan's poetry is often irritable, often wry, and always amusing. No one is more aware of the absurdities and indignities of existence. He finds the ridiculous in the heroic, the banal in the profound, the bland in the romantic. The eponymous anti-hero of his verse-play Maginn (1993) articulates the poet's vision in a fable: He recounts how he went in search of four once-famous men and found
That the master singer envied the harp player,
the harp player envied the cauldron maker,
and the cauldron maker envied everybody.
The only one without envy was the acrobat,
but he was in despair-
For he was an upright man.
Life often appears an exercise in futility to Fagan. The words 'upright man' allude to Job, archetypal inhabitant of a futile universe. Humorously, Fagan's upright man is an acrobat, much of whose life is spent anything but upright. Maginn's suffering is equally comical, but his suffering is perhaps made bearable by its comical nature.
At the same time, Frank Fagan is joyously in love with language. Allusions to other authors abound in his work. Significantly, Maginn is himself a typographer, a man involved in a physical relationship with words, and his lover, Kathleen, is a proof-reader. But even language arouses Fagan's comic irritation and makes him aware of a near-perpetual dissatisfaction, as in the poem 'Contra Commas, ' from Pick A Word (1992) :
Look. I've swept
They lie on the floor
the precision of points-not
its bright shaft
In all of my life
just one of my commas
truly had bite.
It is still embedded
in the victim's breast
as if it were
Fagan believes that his role as a poet is to transmute ordinary, everyday agonies into things of beauty. In 'The Good Parasite, ' he imagines himself a parasitical Malaysian flower that feeds off the rot of existence and smells of it too:
who cannot tell your grief,
I can consume
nations of sufferers
I am the good parasite-
Let me live.
Born and raised in Troy, NY, Fagan served in the military before pursuing a variety of professions: writer, editor, political organizer, and business executive. He now lives in Chatham, NY.
For more poems and to hear Frank Fagan read a selection of his work, see: http: //www.seanfagan.com/frankfagan/