As an Italian-American, and born-and-bred Jersey girl, I am generally both fascinated and offended by Jersey Shore. Yet, what I do love is the intersection of pop culture and poetry. Pop culture-related art and poetry offers both accessibility and a readable analysis of our mainstream culture.
That’s why I was really excited to come across Michael Cirelli’s book of poetry, Everyone Loves the Situation, inspired by the reality TV show. Rhode Island-born, Brooklyn-based Cirelli is the Executive Director of Urban Word NYC, and can list appearances on Def Poetry Jam and praises from Kanye West for his book, Lobster with Ol’ Dirty Bastard, among his achievements. (Pretty cool stuff!)Centering a collection of poems around an oft-critiqued cultural phenomenon can be difficult to do without sounding obvious or trite. Cirelli gracefully avoids these pitfalls. Instead, Everyone Loves the Situation focuses more on Italian-American history and, well, the popular bastardization of it.
“To have a whole culture simplified by / Us, to be reduced to meat-a-balls,
To muscle and pink gel, is unacceptable / To the aunts who made it from Brooklyn to
Patterson, the uncles who crossed the line / From Cranston East into Cranston West.”
– from Guido
The beginning of the collection starts with an emphasis on taking quotes from the cast and turning them into a jumping-off point for the poems. As the poetry progresses, Cirelli begins to veer farther away from Jersey Shore, and toward a discussion of social issues, such as gender and class. In both Grenades (Homage & Apology) and 100 Names for Nicole, he acknowledges the roles and treatment of women in Jersey Shore and Italian-American culture in general, bringing a broader understanding and historical relevance to the show.
“You built up a tolerance / to standing all day, to taking / orders and pouring coffee”
– from Grenades (Homage & Apology)
Though the book cover, which I love, indicates that the collection would be more humorous, it’s a pleasant surprise to find thought-provoking poems that hold a mirror up to pop cultural trends and what it means for those of us who are both fans of the show and/or pride ourselves in its mockery.