Micro-Review Monday: Russian Novels by Luke Bloomfield

Russian Novels
by Luke Bloomfield
Factory Hollow Press

There is a moment in the poem “Something Small and Precious” where the poet shows a decision being made. The poem paints a scene outside a “metal museum” of two people meeting, revealing their collections and capabilities to each other. When one “who assembles the world on the/ backs of whales” exits, the poem concludes with “Across the street there is a/ meatball factory child playing”.

By parading to the reader the choice being made, the poem chooses “factory” and “child” both, creating an effect not typically had, and it’s damn hilarious. More importantly, the strikethrough serves up a comment on the all-too-common superfluousness in surrealism. So much of what passes today for imagination’s outer limits feels nullifyingly indiscriminate and often disingenuous.

What differentiates Bloomfield’s surrealism is not only its intelligence and craft, but it’s care for humanity. Bloomfield is a true logician, potting imagination’s infinite variables into a soil of odd, but reasonable sense and insight. The poems come on unanticipated and sophisticatedly surprising; taking weird situationalism and exotic names and localizing them in a benevolent storyteller’s voice. And while it feels familiar, it’s not, and maneuvering in such fluency is no easy feat. Russian Novels reminds readers who come to poetry for surrealism’s potential that while possibility exists, it’s the humanity in making such things possible which gives us lasting company.

Brian Foley

The Return of Micro-Review Mondays: The Obligatory Garnish Argument by Meg Ronan

We are thrilled to announce the return of Micro-Review Mondays, with Brian Foley paving the way and bringing us mini-review morsels to start each week of right. Check back each Monday for one or two little delights. Enjoy!

The Obligatory Garnish Argument
by Meg Ronan
Springgun Press

 A distrust in decoration reaches back as far as Plato, who thought ornamentation a symptom of deceit drawn from what he deemed the poet’s affinity for the “divinity of madness.” In the Obligatory Garnish Argument, one of Meg Ronan’s arguments chimes, “But of course, my aunt told me not long ago/ the crazier I get the more she wants to read!/ So maybe that’s it…you are all just waiting for me to crack.”

The word obligatory drawing attention to the poet’s awareness to the fact that poetical language is itself often persecuted as no more necessary than a parsley sprig on a plate, Meg Ronan’s first collection is a multi-modal display of voice intentionally alternating between confidence and neurotic uncertainty towards the medium she chooses to use.

The self-titled poems interspersed throughout are three-line stanzas of dynamic, microtonal word play, continually in flux, but keeping the argument in refrain. At their best these poems are reminiscent of Stein’s Tender Buttons, a book that might also be considered a garnish argument. 

Cut throughout the rest of the book is another meta-voice, pleading at the reader to stop, repeating “why are you still reading this”, “why are you still suffering” in numerous ways. The effect is charming, smart, often funny, as this admission of guilt welcomes the reader in more than it pushes out.

Yet despite the warning shots to back off, it’s an ironic move, as Ronan knows this is a conversation that needs to be had, as shown in the final poem

an argument so efficient as to
unglue all that metaphysic gloom, so
perfumed a premise, yes, the obligatory garnish argument

 —Brian Foley

iO: A Journal of New American Poetry » A CONVERSATION WITH: BRIAN FOLEY

A constellation’s a man-made illusion of connection. Its up to us to make them appear. Every stars’ it’s own island. But so what. They’re still beautiful and unfamiliar each night if you want them to be. So we continue with the stories. We make a shape and feel better.


The Constitution is my attempt at a shape.


--Brian Foley in iO: A Journal of New American Poetry