In the Voice of a Minor Saint

Full disclosure: I’m already a huge fan of Sarah J. Sloat’s work and I’m afraid In the Voice of a Minor Saint, her new chapbook from Tilt Press, has only confirmed every one of my existing prejudices. There’s an elegant luminosity about her poems. I think of fine lace and bone china when I read them. Lace and china run through with near-invisible threads of toughness and durability. I also think witty, delightful, quirky, intelligent. Dainty. Fastidious, too, in the best sense of the word. A successful poet must either be a master story-teller or consistently delight the reader by asserting bold unexpected connections with complete confidence. Sarah falls into the latter category, and reading In the Voice of a Minor Saint is an all-too-short poetry-rush of page by page anticipation – what will she come up with next?

The poem Pursuit, for example, starts out addressing the morning -“Bird-wrought dawn, bed’s edge” – and leads us along a bright chain of morning-things that could only show up in a Sarah Sloat poem (“narco smell of gasoline/ at the Esso”!), to end with this unexpected but wholly perfect affirmation:

Oh dumpy man whistling like happiness itself
Past my car window –
Keep it up, buddy
I follow.

Self-awareness and self-deprecating humor are taken to new heights in The Silent Treatment, a brilliant analysis of the (non-) activity of the tongue in such a phase:

Eat your heart out, it might say. Eat
your pilaf, your side vegetable
and the pox upon your crops.
It might say anything, were it not
lounging around a lower hemisphere.
Laid back at some southern spa, mud-
bathing, overdosing on motionlessness.

Similarly, in High Heeled – another gorgeously funny sketch which I won’t excerpt here. Go buy the book and read it!

The world in these poems is often an endearing, manageable place – “Little world, your afternoons/ are losing their edge” (Humidity) – but it has its edges and the emotional connections to it are real, whether painful — “It’s always the same. Everything so/beautiful and falling apart. Everything/too mulish to collapse entirely” (The Problem with Everything) – or joyful: “I dream joy’s a cheetah on a highway. / I pull off, ditch my keys and run with it” (Ghazal of the Bright Body).

The last poem in the book, Vestment, is also available here. It’s a complete gem, and not just because it has bees in it.

Check it out and congrats to Sarah!

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3 thoughts on “In the Voice of a Minor Saint

  1. Another American poet for me to chase up. Thanks for this, Nic. Our general ignorance in the UK of the American poetry scene is woeful. I’m getting quite an education through my interactions with Stateside poetry blogs.

  2. Pingback: In the Voice of Sarah J. Sloat | Via Negativa

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