Late Night Talk Show Fantasy & Other Poems
by Jennifer Dotson
48 poems, 84 pages
Publisher: Kelsay Books
To Order: https://kelsaybooks.com
Reviewed by Michael Escoubas
In perhaps the most unique foundation on which to build a poetry collection this reviewer
has seen, Jennifer Dotson’s Late Night Talk Show Fantasy and Other Poems, is destined
to stand the test of time. Nothing seems to time-date the late night talk show genre. From
the opening monologue, to the house band, to the first guest and finally, to the wacky
non-sequitur comedian (all section headings) Dotson surprises and delights with a
plethora of original poems.
Pre-reading collections for interesting titles is a habit with me. I was immediately arrested
by several: “The Secret Life of Three,” provides a provocative treatment of the little-
known home-life of Jesus, Mary and Joseph; “Living with a Beanstalk Boy,” may
conjure memories of your teen years (you won’t want to miss this one); “Edwin Booth’s
Dagger,” features an ironic twist of fate in the life of a great stage actor. Other enticing
titles include, “Dad’s Saturday Secret,” which offers a memorable strategy for parents’
ordering food at restaurants when children are small. Along with the poet’s mother, you
will experience the “sudden loss of oxygen” in, “When My Mother Met John Travolta.”
Picture yourself on a space shuttle, no gravity, putting together a plate of Mexican food;
“Space Tacos” will nourish your imaginative palate. This poem is a taste you won’t
STYLE AND RANGE
Without imposing a strict organizational structure, Dotson, demonstrates that she knows
what she is doing. Everything included beneath her headings belongs; poems fit neatly
where they are placed. Here is how I paraphrase the work’s structure: Part I. “The
Opening Monologue” alludes to current events and implications of history and myth. Part
II. “The House Band” uses tongue-in-cheek humor to treat family and childhood
memories. Part III. “The First Guest” brings in the body and aging. Part IV. “Wacky
Non-Sequitur Comedian” is a delightful focus on humor. For those who may need a
memory jog about what “non-sequitur” actually means: the term refers to something
really crazy that does not follow from initial assumptions. (Stand by for examples).
The Opening Monologue
With the national election just weeks away, Dotson offers this seemingly light treatment
of politics which is profoundly wise. I quote in full
The Election, a Gwawdodyn
It’s time again for deep reflection
about our candidates direction.
Tension mounts at polls because each vote counts.
Mark you ballot with your selection.
Smear campaigns are a foul infection,
swaying minds for party defection.
Strident voices make confused our choices;
Civil candidates fear rejection.
Past actions demand our inspection.
Change of heart causes course correction.
Don’t do it by rote; think about your vote!
We hope for change—future perfection!
Editor’s note: This unusual form, Welsh in origin, requires quatrains with a 9/9/10/9
syllable pattern and matching end rhymes on lines 1, 2 and 4. Line 3 of each stanza must
show an internal rhyme.
A real treat during the opening monologue is Advertising Cento. This poem is a
remarkable compilation of some 62 advertising sell-lines, all of which she footnotes at
the end. Here is a sampling
Have you met life today?
Where’s the beef?
What’s in your wallet?
Does she or doesn’t she?
A little dab’ll do you.
You’re in good hands.
You deserve a break today.
Just do it.
There are 62 of these strung together in a composition you will want to show others or
read at open mic.
The House Band
Dulce de Leche opens this group of poems. Dulce de Leche is a delicacy made from
slowly cooking cow’s milk and sugar together. When done the mixture shows a lovely
caramel color. In Majorca, located in eastern Spain, where the poet’s stepfather lived for
a time, it took four hours of slow-stirring to reach the end. The poem chronicles
recreating this process in their Brooklyn apartment. Join Dotson and her family as they
“dip in delicate spoons.”
You will delight in how Dotson brings yesterday “alive” in poems about farming life, the
family dog named Moose, driving lessons at age 12, with a stern word from Mr. Johnson
which you must read the poem to learn. My favorite among these “House Band” gems:
10 Things I learned from my Mother.
The First Guest
For most of us our aging bodies become a source of constant concern. We’re aging and
we know it. Dotson offers fortunate readers a literary “arm around the shoulder.” If
you’re a no-nonsense woman when it comes to fashionable dress, check out
Some say I’ve no sense of fashion.
What to wear is not my passion.
One single rule keeps me on track:
it’s always stylish to wear black.
I’m lousy with accessories.
No belts or scarves, if you please.
French women are born with the knack.
C’est dramatique to dress in black.
In middle age I’ve grown some pudge
that diet and exercise won’t budge.
My downfall is I love to snack.
It’s always slimming to wear black.
In spring and summer some give voice
to criticize my color choice.
My one defense to this attack?
It’s always stylish to wear black.
Other poems continue to spoof, if not spurn, the aging process. Turning Fifty avers that it
is “nifty to be turning fifty and that in Shakespeare’s time she would be past her prime
and looking grave.” Not today; today she is “Chalking up new experiences before her
half-full bucket empties out.” Continuing the aging theme, many ladies will relate to
I feel cold
I feel hot
I don’t know
which is which
God or hormones
flip a switch
and I perspire
radiating sudden fever
not from stress
or even desire
but a thermostat
on the fritz
I toss blankets
take off clothes
still I schvitz
Then it goes
leaving me damp
until the next
The last poem in this section is Dear Future Self at Age 99. What would you write to
yourself looking down the road from where you are right now?
Wacky Non-Sequitur Comedian
I noted above that examples of “non-sequitur” would follow. Being true to my word:
When is the last time you encountered a 106-year-old talking fruitcake? Scott’s Fruitcake
has something to say after being discovered by conservationists in 2017. Doughnut
Philosophy or Make Mine Chocolate, dispenses wisdom in just 9 lines.
Dotson sprinkles 9 distinct poetry forms throughout the collection. Like a well-seasoned
entrée, variety keeps the work ever-fresh and enticing. Several of these appear in this
section including, Etheree, Villanelle, Luc Bat and Ghazal (pronounced guzzle). In
closing, I share a poem that is richly representative of Jennifer Dotson’s Late Night Talk
Show Fantasy & Other Poems.
It’s raining poetry.
Stormy skies spouting verse.
We’re wet with words,
moist with metaphors,
soaked with similes.
Images clog the gutters
Rhythm on the roof
of the car creates
a turbulent tempo,
a cascade of couplets,
a shower of sonnets,
and sestinas. Windshield
wipers struggle to clear
the raining rhymes.
Streets glisten in the
shiny splash of symbols
and metres of feet
dancing towards the drains.