I WEAVE A NEST OF FOIL by Arlene Naganawa, available from Kelson Books

A Review of Arlene Naganawa’s I WEAVE A NEST OF FOIL

By Chelsea Fanning | May 9, 2024

In Arlene Naganawa’s otherworldly new poetry collection, I Weave a Nest of Foil, we enter the liminal where the mundane and commonplace are transformed into the ethereal. Here, the familiar becomes peculiar and the present becomes unstable. Candles are “listless and unbearable,” gulls “scatter like paper napkins,” and hearts glow “like two moons under one skin.” 

Throughout, Naganawa evokes the sensation of being between worlds, of hovering in the space between then and now. Each poem appears constantly on the brink of some great disaster, or epiphany, or miracle. We float through gossamer scenes delicately rendered through Naganawa’s arresting imagery, alighting briefly for moments of striking lucidity before taking wing again. 

These poems dwell in unease and fervent anticipation. At turns unsettling, even moments of perceived comfort display a troubled undercurrent. In “We Wanted Billy, Even Though” (a standout in the collection), the slow haze of summer days spent “in the off-the-highway- / chicken-in-a-basket-picnic-table-out-front drive-in” where young girls fantasize about being “chosen / to flip our hair out the window” of a boy’s Chevy, we are reminded that across the ocean, in Vietnam, older boys are “slogging / through swamps.” 

Naganawa begs us to consider if perhaps all of life is just waiting for the next moment to arrive – “The joy of getting from one place / to the next and another next from there” – all the while turning these moments of expectancy into something transcendent and holy. 

Told through the perspectives of ghosts, a dream dog, scarecrows, and a lighthouse keeper, among others, I Weave a Nest of Foil defies easy classification and prefers instead to remain as amorphous as its narrators. Are these poems a warning, a prophecy, a prayer? Or are they meant simply as evidence that we existed, that we “were there, pensive, waiting out / the dark.”

You can order I Weave a Nest of Foil by Arlene Naganawa from Kelson Books here.

About the author

Arlene Naganawa is the author of the chapbooks Private Graveyard (Gribble Press), The Scarecrow Bride (Red Bird Chapbooks), The Ark and the Bear (Floating Bridge Press), and We Were Talking About When We Had Bodies (Ravenna Press). She has been the recipient of grants from the Seattle Office of Arts and Culture and Artist Trust and was awarded a creative residency at Bloedel Reserve on Bainbridge Island, WA, and served as a juror for the 2024 poetry residency. 

Chelsea Fanning is a poet, editor, witch from New Jersey. Her debut poetry book, To Love of Fierecess So Bright, is forthcoming from Nymeria Press in 2025. Her poetry has been nominated for the Best of the Net award and has appeared in Mom Egg Review, Miniskirt Magazine, Coffin Bell, OyeDrum, Ethel Zine, and elsewhere. She has an MFA in poetry from Drew University and is the poetry editor at Fatal Flaw Magazine.

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