Sunday, May 18, 2014

Brian Foley, The Constitution


Already we need
hay to fill
our effigies.

The silence
of the heart

the body
which moves
in habit.

Put something
in it & leave

it to leaven.
It will rise like

the chimney
that stands

after the house.

The poems that make up Massachusetts poet and publisher Brian Foley’s debut trade poetry collection, The Constitution (Black Ocean, 2013), move in a series of rhythmic hesitations and pauses through explorations of awareness. In the title poem, he writes: “With you scrib- / bled beside me / I don’t know / who I’m not. / Awareness is / just punishment.” He writes in a cadence with echoes of San Diego poet Rae Armantrout’s work, but with the combined explorations of both internal and external landscapes, and how the two are intricately linked. His poems seem to skim and bounce like stones across the water, hiding far deeper, more subtle depths through a remarkably deceptive simplicity. As the back cover suggests, Foley does work to question what we might take for granted, as even his lines unsettle, shifting an appearance of sentences that break down into phrases that collide and accumulate, forcing connections that might otherwise remained impossible in such a short space. As he writes in the poem “HERE DOES NOTHING”: “It would not take gun- // point to fit me into / a simple question, // a chance more de- / finite than ever I was // worth, not knowing / gone came earlier.” Through his series of small collisions, there is a wonderfully vibrant sense of wordplay and pun that underscore each poem, one that exists as a series of wry gestures, from the poem title “You Are On Fired,” to the opening of the poem “THE BIRTHDAYS,” that reads: “children per- / forming parents / photo albums // reach / their image / & cease / existing[.]” Composed in a series of lyric meditations, The Constitution is remarkably cohesive for a first collection of short lyrics, and one can enter anywhere in the book and get at least an idea of the larger portrait, without giving too much away. Throughout, The Constitution works to deliberately evolve, and even unsettle, questioning and updating, from the early inclusion of the title poem, followed throughout the collection by a series of “Amendments,” including:


trouble is


an autopsy

pronounces me
out of body

then nothing
fits back in as it did
before it was

taken out

the bones I know
hunt for me
in someone else’s rind

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