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by V.M Fry, Xlibris Corporation, 2009, 89 pages
ISBN: Softcover 978-1-4415-7147-2; Hardcover 978-1-4415-7148-9


A Review by Natalie Lobe

Baudelaire said the arts aspire, “if not to take one another’s place, at least reciprocally to lend one another new powers.” V.M. Fry’s, Basking Sharks, is a perfect example of this coupling. Each of her poems is accompanied by one of her extraordinary paintings which directly or indirectly linked to the poem.

The first poem in the book, LIFE BESIDE HENRY’S FENCE , makes a direct link.. We hear, “ Again old Henry’s at my door/ Begging for some tiny job that pays/Him instant cash. It pains me to the core/ That I’ve become his ATM……” On the opposite page is an impressionist painting of a shabbily dressed old man who perfectly fits the lines, “Today he tells me he can’t rake the leaves/ Because the rake’s too wrong. ‘It’s small,’/He tells me in his new white shoes/ ‘You know right for me.’ I’m tall/ (I’d swear I caught a whiff of booze.)”

In SWIMMERS the accompanying illustration is more subtle. The poem uses swimming as metaphor for aging.


I’ve swum through life
My goals the same as fish,
Avoiding the hook in mouth.
My body, once sequined,

Sleek and lunging, is now
A gargoyled, sunken cathedral
Deep in monstrous seas.
Overhead Carnival cruise ships pass,

Frenzied galas, ( Mondays
Lost. ) I hear aging hearts and engines
Throb, as a thousand jaded diners
Contemplate the long swim home.

The abstract painting on the opposite page, in colliding bright colors and random accouterments of drinking and dining, give the impression of a cruise ship on rough water.

The foregoing poems also depict Ms. Fry’s gift for mixing humor with pathos/ gaiety with darkness. Henry is funny but pathetic; the aging celebrants participating in “frenzied galas” contemplate “the long swim home.” In the sardonic poem, THE NIGHT THAT GLORIA FOUND OUT ABOUT HARRY’S SECRETARY, Gloria has a long list of nostalgic memories all beginning with, “Take Back”: the Bombay gin, the lustful desire, the winters, the springs the summers, the kids, the sledding, the games and so on. In conclusion,“Take everything left on this earth,/ And ride them to Hell for all that it’s worth.”

Her sly humor is also manifest in the several poems take off on the work of well known poets, for example, POES CROWS, PASSING FROSTED WOODS, SWINE BEFORE PEARLS. Each of these poems is a reminiscent but humorous version of it original. Here is her take-off on William Carlos Williams:


doctor Williams

upon his red

barrow, eyes

with rain

white chickens

depend on him
as poets do.

Some of the poems in BASKING SHARKS are in traditional end rhyme, some with internal rhyme. Most are in free verse. All of them, however, have an irresistible rhythm. Where rhyming does occur, it is appropriately and judiciously used to enhance the listener’s pleasure.

Ms. Fry even goes for the macabre. In the poem, GORGEOUS, a beautiful though “childlike” young woman sits by a pond with a man who turns out to be a murderous freak: “It was an evil that roamed and captured/ His mind. Her swan-neck became/ Irresistible. Later, when she was floating, / He thought the scene was perfectly gorgeous.”

BASKING SHARKS is a creation of a multi-talented person. It’s like a plateful of tapas, its beautiful illustrations coupled with poems on a wide variety of subjects and written in several different forms. In just 89 pages, Humor, pathos, satire, even violence intermingle to give us a complete and satisfying experience.

Natalie Lobe’s poetry collection, Connected Voices, was published in 2006: Island Time 2008. Ms. Lobe is a Poet in the Schools for Maryland; and teaches at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts in Annapolis, Maryland. 

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