G. H. Mosson’s Family Snapshot as a Poem in Time, Reviewed by Dan Cuddy

71xFss6dz6LG.H.Mosson, Family Snapshot as a Poem in Time, Finishing Line Press, 2019, ISBN 978-1-6534-849-1, 31 pages, $14.99 ww.finishinglinepress.com

Gregg Mosson’s latest book, Family Snapshot as a Poem in Time, tackles a subject not often written about by male poets: a father’s love for his family, his children. There is a warm glow of emotion that permeates the entire book. In section XI of the long experimental poem which gives the title to the book the poet writes:

Sing, muse, of fatherly love, of
parents yearning like ships; sing of
motherly love, of union that births
forth living, joyful answers; how late
or soon, quick wits turn back with questions.

The questions, wonder, wit, and love of the poet are present throughout this experiment and play of words. Yes, the poetry is an album, much like a photographic album, but the invisible emotions present within the moments of a family’s life and growth are given voice, contemplation, celebration throughout the turn of pages. The book of poems is divided into two sections. “The Family Snapshot” is the first part (more later on it). The second part titled PEEK-A-BOO MOON & OTHER POEMS is a group of 10 poems that are both children’s poems and the embodiment of an adult’s consciousness of and in the world of a child. I think these poems would be great to read to a pre-school child. There is magic in them. I’ll just quote a short one to give the jaunt of imagination and childlike energy present.

Where is the moon, as night soars overhead
just speckled with stars? Did the moon go to bed?
Do you dance with the sun? Do you play with the sea?
Does the moon swim with dreams to help hope be free?
My Dad brought me out, and Mom came too.
Peek-a-boo Moon, where are you?

The poem “Family Snapshot” is experimental and unconventional but certainly not impossible to read. In the first perusal, the reader should concentrate on the words that are there. Initially forget the black squares and rectangles that pock many of the pages of this poem. See the pages below for examples of this typographic choice.

Scan_0002 Mosson text

Mosson writes lyrically, and, at times, as a diarist and self-conscious editor. The themes and questions that the poem presents reverberate within the author’s mind as word-photographer are certainly made accessible. The poem as a whole is in one sense a game, a childish creation making up its own rules as it goes along, but it is a serious examination of his family life and of his relationship with the other members of his family. A reader can’t ignore the typography, but it is of secondary importance to what the very recognizable and often evocative words present. Both a lyrical and analytical mind is working throughout the poem. Images and original associations abound as in the most traditional poetry. However, the sophistication of the poem is accessible to the sensitive adult.


First I had a vision, then I had a life.
The daffodils came with spring. Did they ever sing?
The winter was a time to hone. I am no longer alone.
Did the summer stretch out endlessly? Did the fall entangle me?
Two years ago I showed my daughter the moon. I am too tired for stars.
Yesterday, my son watched a squirrel climb a utility pole. His eyes bulged.
I took him down the slide for the first time, in spring’s first glorious afternoon.
His mind rearranged. He stomped to the playground steps with a wild surmise.
For me, what’s amazing has changed.

(reviewer’s note—a long blacked out rectangle constitutes the remainder of the line after the word “changed”, and one for the whole succeeding line.)

What are these blacked-out rectangles? They are like redactions of a text. But what are they? The poet tells us later in the poem:

Notes of Development: Hectic Indoor days. Must get organized. Where was I? Okay. A long poem. It’s going to be about my life. How can I write it without editing my life into what I wish? How can I write this life, as is, from the point of view of the writer’s mind? How embarrassing. There must be some source of useful blindness, delicious dizziness that blurs into wholeness, carving out an internal vacuum of calm core from the errata. Okay, don’t change a word. But don’t show them all. Use black-out. Less is more. To catch the dance that comes and goes, to capture feeling foremost without the used furniture of facts, yet not vacationing in the ideal lounges of memory, this art must steer perspective through practiced forgetting, as if some dancer launches from posture into grace.

We can read into this that the poem as a whole is about writing a poem about creating and living a life. This is consciousness squared, then cubed. There are other mysteries in this poem. There is a Section I but no Section II. The poem skips to Section III. Sections IV, VI, VIII, XIII, XV, etc. are missing. The poem ends with Section XXIX. There are Notes of Development, Remarks, Songs, the aforementioned black-outs. Think of this as the freedom inherent in abstract expressionism or the visions of Picasso. It is a means to get at the reality that is both the words and the experiences the words approximate. However, for all the authorial seriousness, there is a childlike freedom and play in the poem. A linear imagination, a traditionalist, will have a hard time accepting the poem’s method of play. You have to loosen up and explore the poem on its own terms.

© Dan Cuddy and G. H. Mosson

G. H. Mosson is the author or co-author of 3 prior books of poetry, including Heart X-rays with Marcus Colasurdo in 2018. His poetry and literary criticism have appeared in Measure, Tampa Review, Cincinnati ReviewSmartish Pace and Rattle. Mr. Mosson is a father, writer, lawyer and dreamer.

Dan Cuddy is an editor of the Loch Raven Review. His poems have appeared in many journals, most recently in End of 83, the Baltimore Post Examiner, and the Bhubaneswar Review.

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