Chris Salerno: Minimum Heroic
“If they cut my bald head open they will find one big boxing glove.” These are the words of Marvin Hagler, a retired New Jersey professional boxer who was an undisputed world middleweight champion from 1980 to 1987. These are also the first words of Christopher Salerno’s second authored book of poetry, Minimum Heroic.
“Marvin Hagler was a very serious boxer,” Salerno explains, ”who lost a famous title fight to a flashier opponent, and the fight was so close that the referee had to call the shot. But I couldn’t help but feel like Hagler lost to his opponent’s personality, not his skill.”
In many ways, this is the most applicable explanation to preface the content of Salerno’s book. Marvin, like most other serious competitors, was punished for his inability to be the loudest and brightest, but when did we start measuring accomplishments by way of volume and light?
Spliced into three sections, Minimum Heroic pays homage to the imperfections of mankind. It is stark with heightened self-awareness, and it idles between tiny social wars, which Salerno brings front and center, such as: man versus nature, society versus purity, and depthless action versus true commitment.
Its string of poetry disturbs the idea of suburban convention, and invokes an existential chain of undetermined questions: Are we constantly distracted by arbitrary symbols of perfection? What is a modern day hero? Why are we so quick to congratulate ourselves for surviving ordinary obstacles in such extraordinary ways? If nature gets to be pristine, then why do people have to fail?
Salerno, author of 2006 Whirligig, was born and raised in New Jersey. He uses images from his formative years to create the backdrop for this confessional collection of textured poetry. “The poems in this book concern themselves with the nuances of suburban life,” he admits. “The idea of the book title comes from the existence of a life that offers some heroism, maybe, but not really, or a glimpse of heroic nature, but not definitely.”