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In a recent issue of The New Yorker, writer Mary Karr said something that spoke to the post-election stupor we’ve all been inhabiting.
“If you ever doubted the power of poetry,” Karr writes, “ask yourself why, in any revolution, poets are often the first to be hauled out and shot–whether it is Spanish fascists murdering Federico Garcia Lorca or Stalin killing Mandelstam. We poets may be crybabies and sissies, but our pens can become nuclear weapons.”
There is a very human instinct to attempt to make sense out of a senseless thing. Which is to say, most things. When a crisis occurs, or I have a premonition that a crisis is about to occur, or a crisis has recently occurred, I hit the books. My research may not aid me, but it has a placebo effect—if I can try to piece out the why, then maybe I’ll answer the what next.
How timely, when Sarah Sarai’s Geographies of Soul and Taffeta arrived in my mailbox. The cream and blue cover, silky to the touch, offered instant levity—and the content within offered heartbreaking validation. Heartbreak is common to us, but infinitely renderable. There are a billion ways of recalibrating it, so it hits just so—in the right light, it reflects off of everything. In her poem “Love Letter”, she writes: “Every woman has her limits?/Like I don’t know that./Like it doesn’t tear me apart.”
The tone is irreverent, yet anguished. Don’t we all know that? Doesn’t it tear us all apart, to know the limits of our bodies, our knowledge, our capacity to hold truths, or perceived truths? I shuddered, then read the poem again, then again.
“It Is True and Truth Sometimes Gets Me Published” is another relevant knockout: “Nothing is invincible. Not everything’s a clue.” And “Or did I sign on for this?/That’s a very good question, yes, thank you./Expectations should be lowered, like/a visor when steering into the sun.” Her poems acknowledge the human capacity for boundary—and our inability to come to terms with fallibility. And while the poems speak to intimacies, to a constellation of personal intimacies that do the world a service in being global, they also speak to a state of people in crisis. Of people steering into the sun, unsure how they even got in the car in the first place, and where they’ll go next.
Geographies of Soul and Taffeta
By Sarah Sarai
Paperback, 9781945023040, 46 pp.