The Usefulness of Hippopotamus

A Humorous Chapbook for Trying Times

Poetry - General
59 Pages
Reviewed on 05/20/2024
Buy on Amazon

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    Book Review

Reviewed by Pikasho Deka for Readers' Favorite

The age-old adage about humor being the best medicine for difficult times is wonderfully showcased in this delightful collection of humor-filled poems and poetic stories. Penned during the pandemic, The Usefulness of Hippopotamus by Vincent J. Tomeo is a collection that offers insightful and entertaining observations on some of life's unexpected moments and absurdities. With these amusing poems, Tomeo shares some of his own life experiences, which include his struggles to publish his poems, making his dog listen to his poetry, using marijuana for pain, seeing the pictures on the wall come alive and dancing to the tune of the poems in his mind, trying to come up with answers to his mother's neverending questions, cooking a cockroach in the toaster, running naked through the Washington State Park as an NYU student in 1970, and many more.

If you're a poetry lover looking for a laugh or two, The Usefulness of Hippopotamus will be right up your alley. Vincent J. Tomeo takes readers on a poetic journey unlike any other, but one thing's for sure. It's bound to get a few chuckles out of you. This is one of those leisurely reads that brighten your day. Layered with satirical humor and absurdism, Tomeo's verses paint a colorful and lively portrait of the seemingly mundane events in life. "Charging a Cellphone" is a hilarious poem about a son trying to charge his phone using the plug connected to the life support of his father at the hospital. In "A Poem is a River," the narrator likens the intricacies of poetry to a river flowing downstream through nooks and crannies. These were two of my favorites. All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed this collection and highly recommend it.

Jamie Michele

The Usefulness of Hippopotamus: A Humorous Chapbook for Trying Times by Vincent J. Tomeo is an anthology of writing that runs the full gamut of whimsy and thought. Each piece ranges in length, tone, and tenor and includes gems such as the dark humor and imagery of Refrigerator, which depicts the chaos inside a refrigerator as leftover food items revolt against fresh produce, leaning toward themes of consumption and decay; Plot Division C Section, which imagines the speaker's burial plot as a lively and welcoming place, subverting traditional ideas about death and embracing the absurdity of existence; and Seven Words, a minimalist work that plays with the repetition of seven words to create a sense of rhythm and repetition, exploring themes of time and existence through linguistic experimentation.

I picked up The Usefulness of Hippopotamus on a blustery day when, stuck in the house, my mood was in a bit of a funk. Vincent J. Tomeo turned that around, and even got a chuckle or four out of me, and made a day that was meant to be a bore, much, much better. I most enjoyed the satire and social commentary of the thoughtful Conversations with the Statue of Liberty, which depicts a chat with the lovely green lady and looks into the contrast between the ideals inscribed on the statue and the current societal values, particularly around immigration and hospitality. As a person who lived in Las Vegas for just over a decade, I also delighted in Nevada Wedding, where a wedding ceremony was disrupted by extra-terrestrial visitors. What Tomeo gives us in this little gem is a thoughtful and intelligently witty compilation, and I have no doubt it will be equally enjoyable to read outside the house—even while watching goats climbing trees in Morocco.

Doreen Chombu

The Usefulness of Hippopotamus is a collection of poems written by Vincent J. Tomeo during the COVID-19 pandemic while he was dealing with a cancer diagnosis. The author aims to use laughter as medicine by drawing humor from unbearable and trying moments. The poems cover various topics including family life, the state of our society, and the author's personal experiences. They include themes such as rejection, getting older, and general embarrassing situations. Some poems are completely random, such as a U.F.O. landing at a wedding, eating breakfast in heaven, or a mouse holding onto an airplane wing for dear life. This book is an excellent source of entertainment during troubling times, allowing readers to find joy and peace through laughter.

The Usefulness of Hippopotamus is a captivating collection that will grab your attention and bring a smile to your face. Vincent J. Tomeo takes serious issues such as unexpected pregnancy, carbon emissions, and social media addiction and explores these from a unique perspective, addressing them in a subtle yet effective way. I particularly enjoyed the central theme of finding humor in difficult situations. Rather than dwelling on negativity, Tomeo highlights positive and uplifting lessons that can aid in both physical and mental healing. The author frequently mentions his dog, Rex, and his grandma, providing readers with a glimpse into his life and adding a personal and authentic touch to the narrative. This is a well-written collection with consistent themes. It is also neatly organized and formatted. Overall, this is fantastic work.

Courtnee Turner Hoyle

Vincent J. Tomeo's The Usefulness of Hippopotamus: A Humorous Chapbook for Trying Times includes forty-five amusing poems. Tomeo compiled his poetry into a book after his battle with cancer and the effects of the pandemic. Most of the free-form verses are satirical pieces and seemingly serious poems that often have an amusing twist at the end. The title piece describes an unassuming animal that is critical to the balance of its habitat, but readers may see a double meaning. Tomeo includes several styles in his poems and hopes to bring happiness to readers who may be suffering through difficult times.

In an entertaining introduction, Vincent J. Tomeo describes two funny incidents before readers dive into his poetry. Some pieces reveal an intense imagination that unwinds words, displaying the events like a movie before your eyes. Whimsical poems dance off the page, and deep descriptions paint detailed pictures as the reader moves through the pieces. Tomeo seems to base many of his poems on his experiences, creating a more intimate bond between the reader and the poet. It's interesting to see the contrast between the poems. Tomeo writes a lot of light-hearted lines, but he also shows depth in many verses, like: "She would pass by me, like a soul departing a dead body." At a time when they need to find a way to cope with abrasive incidents or unfair circumstances, readers can simply relax their minds as they absorb Tomeo's work. The Usefulness of Hippopotamus is a good selection for readers who enjoy short poems with entertaining personal anecdotes and personification.

Delene Vrey

The Usefulness of Hippopotamus: A Humorous Chapbook for Trying Times is a collection of poems written by Vincent J Tomeo during the COVID-19 pandemic. The poetry takes a humorous look at various topics and subjects that might seem mundane but will provide a lighter look at life. Take the poem about a paperclip – Paperclip Exchange – where something as innocuous as a paperclip turns into a poem about writing and the emotions when rejected by a publishing house. There are poems about reading poetry at the library, the effect of painkillers on one's perception of the contents of the refrigerator, and the poetry found in nature that the poet tries to capture in words. The poet succeeds in creating vivid visual images through his free rhyme and will bring a smile to the face of the eclectic poetry reader.

In The Usefulness of Hippopotamus, Vincent J Tomeo clearly shows that when you have time and really try, you can creatively and entertainingly write about the most mundane subjects, even things that you would not consider writing about. During the pandemic, when we all were faced with being cooped up in our homes, the author also battled bladder cancer, which gave him even more cause to reflect on life and the world around him. These poems are thoughtfully written, short, and funny. Anyone can identify with the contents and giggle as they nod and agree that it is so profound and true. Poetry lovers will enjoy this chapbook, and even if you do not usually read poetry, if this book is lying around somewhere, you will be glad to pick it up and read some of the poems.

K.C. Finn

The Usefulness of Hippopotamus: A Humorous Chapbook for Trying Times is a work of collected poetry in the comedy, slice-of-life, and observational subgenres. Penned by author Vincent J. Tomeo, this collection of witty and light-hearted poetry was initially inspired by the whimsical image of dancing hippos, reminiscent of Disney's Fantasia. Through clever verses and humorous anecdotes, Tomeo explores the role of humor in navigating life's challenges and finding joy even in the darkest of times. The verses bring together some of life’s quirkiest moments and contrast them with our day-to-day goings on, seeking moments worth smiling about even on the greyest days.

Author Vincent J. Tomeo has crafted a delightful read that is sure to bring much-needed laughter and levity to anyone lucky enough to find themselves with a copy. Tomeo's whimsical poetry not only entertained but also offered a refreshing perspective on the power of humor to uplift the spirit. As I immersed myself in the witty verses and playful imagery, I couldn't help but smile at the clever wordplay and relatable observations woven throughout the chapbook. Some of my personal favorites included the beautifully penned but also very chuckle-worthy ‘My Streaking Days Are Over’ and the nursery rhyme style cadence of ‘Jonh Miller’s Green Boat.’ Tomeo's reflections on finding humor amid adversity, particularly during the pandemic and his battle with bladder cancer, added authenticity to the collection with a rawness that makes you feel connected to the author. Overall, The Usefulness of Hippopotamus serves as a reminder of the healing power of laughter and the importance of finding joy even in life's most trying moments. I would not hesitate to recommend it.

Foluso Falaye

One beautiful thing about life is that you can find reasons to laugh even in painful moments. Written during the gloomy pandemic era, Vincent J. Tomeo's The Usefulness of Hippopotamus is a collection filled with laughter and brimming with funny, memorable stories. The poems capture hilarious incidents from Vincent's past, such as getting his clothes stolen after streaking and having to go home using only newspapers to cover himself. It also includes stories like the one that depicts a son pulling the plug on his father's life support to charge his dying cellphone. Another poem, Refrigerator, is not about humans but about food and a revolution started by the garlic's rumors. Tomeo's poems keep the reader engaged with humor, vivid descriptions, and eye-opening observations.

Vincent J. Tomeo's work is art in its purest form: free and creative. Apart from the consistently amusing tone, you never know what to expect since the poems are unique and artistic. Another one of the intriguing features is the author's brilliant use of wordplay. I had an amazing time reading aloud fun wording like, "Have a boo bobbing bash at the pumpkin patch." Despite its humorous nature, the book also contains some profound themes that provoke deep, lingering thoughts, including the struggles of being a writer, an aging population, our phone-centric generation, and more. Ultimately, the poems in The Usefulness of Hippopotamus are brief, funny, and thought-provoking. This is a must-read for individuals who need or love to laugh. Not only will it have you laughing joyously, but it will lift your mood and improve your outlook on life.