Halo of Flies


72 pages
ISBN 0-88962-672-3
DDC C811'.54





Ronald Charles Epstein is a Toronto-based freelance writer and published poet.


Leonard (Len) Gasparini does not revere boundaries. This Ontario native
and U.S. Navy vet presents a poetry book that includes a few short
stories. These breached borders are minor details in a life of
transgression that includes broken marriages, abandoned children, and
boon (bad) companions.

Not surprisingly, Gasparini tells veterans’ tales. The writer is
world-weary but not burned out as he presents trenchant observations and
arresting imagery. In “My Room at the Royal Hotel,” he notes that
“In Vancouver, the rain rains on itself.” In the title poem, a
sexually spent man is graced by a “halo of flies.”

The colorful poet presents a picaresque hero. America’s literary
radical e.e. cummings glorified New York City street poet “Little
Joe” Gould; Gasparini remembers “Smokin’ Joe” Cote, language
teacher and peripatetic substance abuser. In “The Mist,” the reader
stumbles a mile in his shoes.

The wild Windsor boy attacks Toronto. Like other observers, he
juxtaposes “billion-dollar profits” and a library closed by budget
cuts, but he also offers this original observation: “Toronto Is the
Indian Word for Day Job.”

Tragic tales unfold as you supply the outrage. In “The Buffalo
Nickel,” the buffalo is a currency symbol, and Indians are
impoverished pariahs in a prairie that their ancestors ruled. The diner
window’s sign “We dont serve injuns” invites one to discern the
ignorance behind its bigoted message.

The stakes are raised in “Most People Don’t Want to Be Told,”
which notes the average person’s apathy toward evil, even denouncing
“Christianity’s hellish vision on earth.” These attitudes win
Irving Layton’s endorsement; the elderly poet has found a kindred
spirit and successor.


Gasparini, Len., “Halo of Flies,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 28, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/655.