By Selma Sergent
Mario Canto is a Los Angeles based poet and the author of Dancing With Disillusion. He grew up in South Central L.A. His collection of poetry is ardent, potent; there is a sense of might about it, but also the kind of sensitivity that often comes from living in an environment that is bleaker, starker than it is promising.
A vein of provocative social commentary runs through Canto’s work which at times is a robust reality check, sobering, ineluctable.
In the first poem in the collection ‘Talking To Myself’ Canto is
“Observing the rich eating steaks and poor order hamburgers…”
Two sides of the same coin
They got us….”
‘Niggativity’ highlights a malaise which is both socioeconomic and cultural, but in many ways is also a universal experience.
“The nice cars, fancy clothes, big houses and false personality is just a big band aid temporarily – covering up an old wound….”
Mario Canto may write of disillusionment, he may be disappointed with the way life has turned out but he cannot stop himself from releasing a ray of light that cuts through the disillusionment. The sweetness of ‘Sissina’ is undeniable. This is a tender, heartfelt poem.
“How I miss those days as our laughter echoed in the winds…”
The light continues to shine with ‘Babies’ –
“You are my salvation
When you look at me
All I see is gentleness….”
And occurs again in ‘Wind,’ packing a poetic punch as it soars and spins on the page.
“Its color is no color and all colors…”
These poems capture the essence of life, of humanity, showing us that even amidst the starkness of an unforgiving urban existence there is beauty; there is joy.
Mario Canto is 24 years old. It is impressive and compelling that his work contains such passion and such a strong, articulate heart at an age when many of his contemporaries are illusionists – pretending with their focus on smart phones, fast cars and brand name clothing that things are different from or better than they are.
Canto takes off the rose-coloured glasses his friends are wearing and crushes them in the street.
There is pain -
“I gasp for you in absence…” (Dancing With Disillusion)
There is horror –
“As the world makes Dante’s Inferno look like a toddler’s tale…” (Incognito’s Innuendo)
There is telling it like it is –
“ With the ugliest of all being, the ones that are called beautiful” (Ugly)
And a staggering world-weariness –
“People are sucked dry and left with nothing-
Where money is the only thing that matters….” (Vampire Nation)
There is the terrible grief of ‘Phantasm’ written after the loss of his mother –
“Every memory of our home brings agony and happiness…”
Bold, harsh images that sometimes make it difficult to read on, so visceral are they. These images are real life, the world as it is; they can make us want to look the other way until we discover that immersed within them, glinting, snippets of hope lie, waiting to emerge.
“When you come around
A light turns on within people,
As you remind them that there is still something left –
That illuminates little paths towards humanity.” (Beautiful Gentleman)
“But for a short while,
I’ve seen the eyes of many flare up and dream…” (But For A Short While)
Mario Canto is a conjurer; but instead of performing feats of illusion with the sleight of his pen he reveals instances of disillusion – that person who let us down, limited prospects, filling our lives up with things to take away the pain, dealing with the ones who have left us.
He makes us acknowledge the grit, the austerity, the unadorned lines of the day at the same time as we embrace the irreproachable pleasure of hard-won moments of happiness. He feels things in a deep, reverential way; making us in turn, feel those same things.
George Santayana said:
‘Wisdom comes by disillusionment.’
In Mario Canto’s case this is true. He is wise. He speaks of disappointment, an uncaring world, the grim ache of modern life; but underneath it all there is also an ability to see the things that mean the most in life, to feel them. Underneath it all hopefulness prevails; hopefulness that would not exist without recognising that mistaken beliefs, deceptive appearances can pull us down into the dark but when faced can also push us back up into the light.
“She would wear the flowers I bought, in her hair
Times where we cradled the sun and moon to our chest like babies…” (Alicia)
Mario Canto may dance with disillusion but he also sings with expectation and conviction. His is a vital, vigorous voice.
I am a former teacher and musician. I have worked as an editor and writer for several small publishers in Sydney, Australia. I have had some short stories published, as well as two plays. I also mess about with fiction on my blog. Once I was a hairsbreadth away from a publishing deal with a major publishing house. I have too many full length novels in my filing cabinet waiting to be submitted. I understand the vagaries of the writing life yet remain passionate about writers and writing. The world with all its flaws continues to inspire me.