The introduction to Ame Ai’s Fringe and Frivolity is nicely-written, and it gets the point across, but it’s may not strike you as necessary reading. In it Ai explains the nature of this collection and of dividing the pieces across three distinct sections (“Fringe: Adoptee Universe”, “Fringe” and “Frivolity”). It may not seem as critical as the poems themselves, but it’s interesting reading nonetheless. It serves as a strong, valuable introduction to the ambitious intentions of poems like “Equal Rights for Children”, “Gossip” or “Society Is Best as Chewing Tobacco.”
There is urgency in that introduction, not necessarily any type of unpleasant desperation, and it carries into the poems collected here. The core of Fringe and Frivolity revolves around Ai’s “coming out” (as she regards it) and dissection of her history and experiences as a foreign adoptee. Her opinions on the subject can be found throughout. She makes no suggestions that the opinions are anything but her own, and they can be taken with a grain of salt. Agreeing with them is your call, but what may prove more compelling is the emotional journey she relates. One of the themes of Fringe and Frivolity is perhaps that there are no accidents. Everything happens for a reason. It’s an expression with so many connotations and suggestions that it’s lost meaning for many of us, but the idea is suggested in Fringe and Frivolity with such frankness and sincerity that one may find themselves willing to look at the concept again. Examine their idea of the phrase, relate it to the ideas in this book and see if anything changes as a result. It might, it might not. What gives Fringe and Frivolity its moral victory (as well as an artistic one, because the poems are quite good) is that you turn over old ideas and beliefs. Finding something new in doing so is nice, but sometimes, just being willing to do this can be just as rewarding.
Fringe and Frivolity uses that title in more ways than one. The poems are about more than just Ai’s journey of putting her past in order. The title is a starting point. A way in which Ai examines not only her own life, but the creative efforts that have come out of that work, what those words mean to the aspects of society she is striving to better understand and much more. This is created and built upon with each piece in the book. The multi-layered, immensely enjoyable collection offers work rich in style and language. That is the start of what Fringe and Frivolity uses to be taken seriously and enjoyed.