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
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!