in COMPLETE MINIMAL POEMS by Aram Saroyan (2nd Edition), Edited by Aram Saroyan and James Hoff
(Ugly Duckling Presse / Primary Information, 2014)
Excerpt from forthcoming review by Eileen Tabios for Galatea Resurrects:
The 2nd Edition of COMPLETE MINIMAL POEMS includes a Preface by Ron Silliman who chose the first edition for the 2008 William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America. It’s a timely issuance since one can never experience enough pleasure from being reminded of Saroyan’s witty and charming concrete and minimalist poems. One of the highlights of my read of Saroyan's 2nd edition is a poem with the word “ly” centered on the page four times as follows:
(click on image to enlarge)
This simple “ly” is tiny on the otherwise blank page, but evokes the bulk of an entire dictionary—at least those words that can end in “ly”. Looking at this poem made me think of what are missing, what are invisible—the words that can possibly fit before “ly” such as heavenly, ungainly, only, happily … A look at the four examples that came swiftly to mind bespeaks the diversity of possibilities. And so “ly”, by remaining only “ly”, came to evoke/reference many more and more varied words than if the “ly” had been trapped into the singular word.
Entonces, there are four “ly”s on the page, as one can see. Well, the approach comes to place the emphasis on “ly”. My reading above surfaces the possibilities that can be appended to “ly”. But upon further consideration—and as encouraged by the four-time appearance of the two letters—my mind turned away from what are external to “ly” and focused only on “ly”. The ly-ness of “ly”, itself.
This refocusing sight until one sees/understands more of what is being sighted speaks to the effectiveness of Saroyan’s poems.
Meanwhile, for BIBLIOTHECA INVISIBILIS' purpose, I consider the "invisible" text to be those words that could have been appended to "ly"--whose presence are evoked but not actually written on the page.
Aram Saroyan is an internationally known poet, novelist, biographer, memoirist and playwright. Among his books of poetry are Aram Saroyan and Pages (both from Random House) and the collection, Day and Night: Bolinas Poems (Black Sparrow, 1999). Saroyan is also the author of several books of prose, including Genesis Angels: The Saga of Lew Welch and the Beat Generation;Last Rites (a book about the death of his father, the playwright and short story writer William Saroyan); Trio: The Intimate Friendship of Oona Chaplin/Carol Matthau/Gloria Vanderbilt; The Romantic (a Los Angeles Times Book Review Critics' Choice selection); Friends in the World: The Education of a Writer (a memoir); andRancho Mirage: An American Tragedy of Manners, Madness and Murder (a true crime Literary Guild selection). The recipient of two National Endowment for the Arts poetry awards (one of them for his controversial one-word poem "lighght"), Saroyan is a past president of PEN USA West. From 1996-2011 he taught in the Master of Professional Writing Program at USC. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife, the painter and architectural historian Gailyn Saroyan.