Waiting for the Dead to Speak merges the personal with the political. In this, his second full-length book of poems, Fanelli artfully recounts coming-of-age narratives that recall the poet’s encounter with schoolyard bullies while also addressing post-9/11 America, global terrorism, Ferguson, Black Lives Matter, and widening economic inequality. The poems in this book beg for a protest movement or some leader to rise up and address the unraveling American dream and unfettered capitalism. Fanelli also references 1970s punk rock pioneers like The Clash and applies the band's four-chord tracks to current injustices. Other cultural references include Bruce Springsteen, James Dean, The X-Files, and horror movies, often to draw a connection between the poet and his industrial northeastern Pennsylvania hometown or the connection between the poet and his father. Often, the references serve as a way to show that despite differences, there are always some commonalities and shared interests between father and son. At the heart of the book is a questioning of what remains once loved ones depart or relationships dissolve, in particular ways in which past relationships impact the present.
In this strong, wide-ranging collection, Brian Fanelli is driven by both his passion for his subjects and his empathy for the downtrodden. He writes with the clear-eyed view of a survivor—whether writing about the tough world he grew up in or the grim political landscape of pointless wars and injustices, whether writing about the difficult living of an adjunct teacher or personal love, and loss. These poems accumulate in emotional impact, one on top of the other, and together they pack quite a wallop.
Brian Fanelli in his book, Waiting for The Dead to Speak, gives us the gift of vibrant, muscular, carefully crafted poems rooted in working-class rural Pennsylvania. These are coming-of-age poems, protest poems, poems of loss and grief. They follow a young man's attempts to make sense of his experiences and relationships with lovers and parents and to say the unsayable. Sprinkled with references to popular culture and music, to a world divided by war and economic instability, this book is important for the truth it tells about life in contemporary America and for its bravery.
—Maria Mazziotti Gillan