Saturday, May 31, 2014



COMPLETE MINIMAL POEMS by Aram Saroyan (2nd Edition), Edited by Aram Saroyan and James Hoff
(Ugly Duckling Presse / Primary Information, 2014)

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. I had read the first edition.  Different things strike me in reading the second, which attests to the power of these poems when each new reading will generate a new pleasure.

This time, I didn’t focus as much of my reading appreciation on the visual puns between text and image as I was more familiar with them (partly, too, from seeing works by other visual poets like Geof Huth and Marton Koppany).  The first highlight 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.  Here’s a less minimalistic but also vision-expanding poem:

(click to enlarge)

For me, the poetics in the 2nd stanza explains the transformation from the first to the third stanzas.  For, there seems no rationale to the first stanza’s line-breaks except to emphasize “telephone.”  But the third stanza’s single line — combining all thoughts in the poem together into one line — bespeaks how the telephone is more seen, or more comprehended.  The first stanza sees the telephone and, as secondary thoughts, sees the telephone as new and being on the table). The third stanza’s single line sees the all of the telephone all at once — there is telephone and, as part of its identity rather than being separate thoughts about it, that it’s new and on the table.

Oh all right, let’s provide some examples of the text/visual puns since Saroyan excels in them.  How about the name of a poet — enjoy how aptly the given “middle” name describes the name:



And enjoy as well the visual treatment of an artist’s name:


The capitalization of the “L” in the last name turns the “ee” into a trailing-off matter, which only serves to emphasize the name because one then is (or, I at least, am then) encouraged to start pronouncing the name with emphasis in anticipation of the trailing-off ending sound.  The name is brief enough so that one can see the entire name at first glance and thus anticipate the less-stressed ending.

To read Saroyan’s poems is to end a book with eyes refreshened, rather than made tireder, from a reading.  What a joy.  HIGHLY RECOMMENDed!


Eileen Tabios does not let her books be reviewed by Galatea Resurrects because she's its editor (the exception would be anthologies she edits because they focus on other poets as well).  She is pleased, though, to point you elsewhere to recent reviews of her work.  Soffwana Yasmnin engages her poem "Jade" from her THE THORN ROSARY: SELECTED PROSE POEMS AND NEW (19980-2010)  Her latest book, 147 MILLION ORPHANS (MMXI-MML), is also reviewed by Joey Madia at New Mystics Reviews as well as at Book Masons Cafe Press Website and Literary Aficionado.

And her latest anthology as editor, VERSES TYPHOON YOLANDA, receives an engagement in this issue of GR by Aileen Ibardaloza; at Manila Standard Today by Jenny Ortuoste; at North American Review by Vince Gotera;  and at Philippine Inquirer by Luis H. Francia.


  1. Another view is offered by Patrick James Dunagan in GR #8 at

  2. Another view is offered by SS Prasad in GR #23 at