Saturday, February 28, 2009

What I'm Reading: Satin Cash

I've long enjoyed individual poems by Lisa Russ Spaar as I've come across them in journals. In fact, my journey to her new book, Satin Cash, began by reading "Cricket" somewhere online, although I can't remember where. Then, on my way to AWP I read a review of the book that made me want to read the collection. Once at the conference, I met up with good friend Tara Bray, whose new book Mistaken for Song is just out from Persea, also Spaar's publisher for Satin Cash. While at Tara's signing at the bookfair, I swooped up a copy of Spaar's book as well, and I have not been disappointed.

The title of the book comes from Emily Dickinson: "I pay -- in Satin Cash -- / You did not state -- your price --." One of the things I love about Spaar's work is her amazing use of syntax and her surprising diction, both highly reminiscent of Dickinson for me. Spaar is an agile writer; her lines are so well-crafted that the reader falls under the spell of the poem without noticing the guiding hand of the poet...a sure sign of success. Her subject matter is univeral: love, loss, nature, seasons, birds, life, death, etc., yet each poem sees this subject matter through a new prism. I could not stop underlining for the life of me.

Here are some examples.

from "'To do That to Birds'"

In the family orchard,
all bruised blossom & bee-sting

among the practical effects --
machinery, mouth shushed

in the pesticidal cloud
of Southern Jersey -- I believed

I must be fugitive forever, ...

from "Yule"

A hedgetop explodes into wrens
as I pass, winged funereal wreathings
plying the wassail spank of sundown.

from "Home"

When I said to my love, I am afraid,

I do not know where is my home,
a casket opened in me, limitless

as the abyss to which all words attach:

Spaar is definitely a poet I'll be reading and re-reading. I would especially like to get her earlier books and read to discover how she has evolved over the course of her career thus far.

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