Niina Pollari’s Fabulous Essential, Reviewed by Steven Karl

Fabulous Essential

Niina Pollari

Reviewed by Steven Karl

Animal Apoplexy

Fabulous Essential is the first chapbook by poet, translator and editor, Niina Pollari. The poems are a whirlwind tour of interiors and exteriors—the interiors capturing, celebrating, or examining the tensions of domesticity while the exteriors represent nature, a place where wildness roams, a place where you are subjected to the weather’s indeterminacies and indifference, a place where animalistic instincts are exposed and our modern-day technologies are (or should be) left behind.

The opening poem, “The Meteorologist At Home,” sets up a domestic scene:

…All that sodium, can after can
we eat gorgeous little beans.  Make the body cry

tapwater. Make external
hygiene a secondary beast.

The poem which follows, “How to Dress when it’s Weather,” continues to build on this idea of “secondary beast,” and the undercurrent of recklessness which runs throughout the entire chapbook:

— I have a tendency to wear for weather
inappropriate, shell a half-closed ear with a criminal
gold clip, forgo a hat.  Expose the hair. This called

conducting, like a Franklin key.

And then later in the poem, “so put on your harm gear, / go and get wet out there: the great outdoors/ will still be waiting—hello, and welcome/ and please leave electronics not at this time.” Pollari is inciting the reader to action, to leave behind some of these comforts of modernity; in fact, these poems imply that these comforts are causing us to lose touch with nature and our animal instincts, the way we revel in simple pleasures.

One aspect which makes this chapbook both essential and engaging is that Pollari infuses much menace in the poems by using words and phrases like “harm gear,” “beast,” “criminal,” and “pick it to a scab, small, /wounded moment.” Knives and fire serve as recurring images, never allowing us to get too lax in Pollari’s language, making us acutely aware of violence; and yet, because of her tonal reach and flexibility, her poems don’t meander into the territory of doom and gloom or dirges. One moment Pollari is coy and the poem coos, and the next, she embodies that smart-ass you love to have on your side. And then, she’s serious, almost deadly, as in the poem, “Sexy Apoplexy”


(Turn and retrieve…)

Body long, exhausting and blatant

The erratic order of the plants overtaking the site

The demolition’s strange edge

The green and its balm

It’s a terror to be calm when—

Shatter- An explosion- The greenery- Where were you when

Reading and rereading Fabulous Essential, you are compelled to wrestle with recollections of latent wildness, to smile at simple suppers with knives promised for dessert, and ultimately reckon with each poem’s raw beauty.


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