Review by Mike Amado

by Aaron Fagan

Salt Publishing
P.O. Box 937
Great Wilbraham
Cambridge PDO CB21 5jx
United Kingdom
76 pp., $14.95

(For a review of the same book by Christopher J. Jarmick, click here)

I'm always eager to review the work of up-and-coming poets. There's a distinct jolt to the ear (and eye) that this reviewer gets when I grace the pages of a first collection. "Garage" by Aaron Fagan is a big example of that. This is Fagan's first book and it is so new, the copy I received is an uncorrected bound proof with no ISBN number. "Garage" roots itself in the modern moment and grabs hold, it stands still like conversations on a train, unfold like boxes left in the back of a garage now given to the light of day. In more hard terms, Fagan addresses modern love, travel, loss and disappointment, and the "Deus Ex Machina."

There are poems in "Garage" that flow along easily but only then hit you with a non-sequitur ending. In "Private Number Calling," Fagan establishes the scene of a wrong number call on his cell. On the other end is a child, "(Too young / To tell whether it was a boy / Or a girl)..." The child and the speaker go on exchanging "Who is it?" and "Aaron..." the child's voice gets softer each time as the speaker resolves:

The unknown child had already
Mastered a tone of voice
I remember from my child hood--
Where the answer I gave
To a question was not
An answer the asker was after.

The ending? The speaker receives another cell call, this time by someone named, "Mara" who, her runaway dog, "Milo" had come home. The opening poem, along with others, including the just cited employ such endings. It would be interesting to read the poems in "Garage" before the workshops and university mind set got to Mr. Fagan. "Garage," however redeems it self on other levels. The language is sharp, the rhythm is solid and though Fagan doesn't rhyme, the bulk of "Garage" lends itself to spoken word if not slam. For example, in "Keatonesque":

I climbed into the barrel of a cannon
With pin-striped pajama bottoms on.
Lit a match, and turned a light-switch on.
The gallery was pure and white and empty
Save for what was called a sculpture in the far
Right-hand corner to where I was standing.
It looked like a cross between a hang-glider
And an Adirondack chair with no sense of humor.
If it had a placard, it might read: LAWSUIT WAITING / TO HAPPEN.

Fagan continues his homage to silent film actor Buster Keaton in, “The House that Buster Keaton Built” where the speaker finds himself in a strange harmony with the set from one of Keaton’s films. He writes: "Looks just as thrown together as I am--on edge / And tired of windows framing days. Mullions like / Cross-hairs on a gun aimed at me." Almost dream-like, sort of bizzare, the speaker is between "the Practical and the absurd" and wearing a lead diving suit. This matter of dressing up is a adjunct theme in Garage.
Mr. Fagan uses a typical devise in modern poetry, for lack of a better term, let's call it Muted Themes, where word play, turning of phrase and wow-popping imagery surround the theme of the poem like heavy flower petals, leaving the center enclosed, and at times difficult to get at. On the whole, Fagan's poems are highly conversational, Even when he's mildly treading into experimental, and the blue collar realism expressed in the poems is engaging and solidifies a new voice finding his form while journeying through the persona non grata of contemporary life.


Mike Amado, a performance poet from Plymouth Massachusetts who has been published in the Wilderness House Literary Review, the Sherman Café Poetry Box among others. He has featured at such venues as Word on the Street, Open Bark, Kisskadee Coffee co., Mad Poets’ Café, The Art and Soul Festival, Porter Square Books, Gypsy Pashn’s Poetry Caravan.



Note: Reviews may not necessarily reflect the opinions of RATTLE's editors and staff.