The Obligatory Garnish Argument
by Meg Ronan
Springgun Press, 2014
I don’t know why I read poetry. It rarely instructs or informs; it frequently complicates before it illuminates. In all honesty, I could agree with those people who say that poetry is a big waste of time. Writing it and reading it alike.
But so are a lot of things—watching TV, sexing, brewing beer, taking slow walks, eye brow waxing, Mario Cart. Our lives are filled with activities that serve no purpose, that serve no means to any end. (Before you tell me that we sex it to make babies, please take into consideration the many who sex in ways that will in no way lead to procreation.) We can argue this leads to pleasure and that leads to intimacy; this leads to accomplishment and and that leads to a sleeker brow line; but in all of these cases, the result of our efforts flits off and we must rush to seek it out again. And as they say, you can’t take it with you.
Poetry though, poetry is weird. We write it and we read it and, for some reason, when we finish a piece we find ourselves satisfied, and for the most capricious of reasons. And aside from filled pages and book shelves we are rarely left with anything. Poetry one of those activities that serves less of a purpose than all of those other mortal exertions. But still readers, writers, we always seek more.
Meg Ronan’s book The Obligatory Garnish Argument explores this conflict wrapped up in writing poetry, reading poetry, the self, and living in general.
Ronan reminds us that our lives continue on in discord; dying flesh protects the organs which keep us alive:
torque of rotted ribbed arteries
(everything is to be expected)
round the luxury oxygen garden (5)
Humans are dead and alive at the same time. And, on top of that pleasant notion, the living is useless. Our lives fill an auxiliary role to the universe, and, dang it all, we must live them. And with gusto (we hope).
But of course, my aunt tells me long ago
the crazier I get, the more she wants to read!
So maybe that’s it… you are all just waiting for me to crack (12)
Ronan presents multiple contrasting images through out her book: luxury oxygen, glamourous argyle (21), predictably bombarded (34). These odd juxtapositions are the stars of the book for contrasts lead to contemplation and also, the phrases give the reader a sense of pattern, or rhythm.
The book wanders between these defenses, and others entreating the reader “why are you still reading this?” only to offer soon praise, “But if you’ve read this far, I know you are a real writer, and I know you have talent.” (15)
Quickly, a new question opens up “Why are you still suffering?”
If you are suffering from stretch marks, the question is
Why are you still suffering?
I mean it. Stop. This. Instant. (15)
Why suffer under the scars of living, the scars of birthing? Why suffer the work of poetry?
Because we like it, we want to, we exist and we want to make the best of it—to endure. What better way to bring flavor to the arbitrary process of living than with poetry?
An argument as efficient as to
Unglue all that metaphysical gloom, so
Perfumed a presence, yes, the obligatory garnish argument. (51)
Ronan provides a dialogue that explores the relationship between the writer and the reader, the poet and her words, and the self and its place. The verses read like small koans, or some frantic texts from a close friend, each verse eases the reader in and out of confusion, but leaving them content.