G.E. SCHWARTZ Reviews
The Future Is Happy by Sarah Sarai
(BlazeVox Editions, Buffalo, N.Y., 2010)
Contemporary "innovative" poetry is not often willing to open a window on the passions that under gird or animate it, if indeed there be any such passions. In Sarah Sarai's new collection, The Future Is Happy, however, the confrontation and interactions with an emotional life gives the author's poems a nervy, discomfiting vitality. Their very rawness and urgency bring these poems to a kind of transcendence. The result is a poetry that is not comfortable to read, but necessary just the same.
Sarai makes an unabashed assault on despair. Each poem is an exercise (exorcism?), of sorts, in faith; that this faith is precarious, teetering, is reflected in the various harmonies and imbalances found in the poems. Many poems seem to merge address toward a divine one with address toward a partner who offers more earthly intimacy. There are biblical references. For example, in "Remorse" one finds, "When he lumbered in the way of men/who use their hands to till the earth/he knocked rough doorway/to sob unfairness and/the slayings," but these intermingle with imagery that borrows from a more traditional, perhaps romantic, vein of poetry, as when Sarai writes later in the same piece, "We've killed our brother./ The dead roam through us." We were and are there.
The poems of The Future Is Happy jar the reader with their painful strangeness. This is, arguably, just what makes this offering innovative, because one realizes that Sarai's struggle is not, ultimately, against limits but against OUR despair. To so focus her work enables this poet to employ any tool at all which she might find at her disposal, even the vulnerability of the sentimental and over-used symbols which are transformed to "Accept connection, She/ The thing? That holds together?/ A bed slept in. Art begins/ in lights breathy slink/towards slats, crossfloors, covers, morn." Sarai's doggedness and emotional boldness, while familiar to human experience, have the effect of defamiliarizing her language and imagery.
Sarai's poems use what is sometimes faltering, fractured-in-gesture language to enter the unsteady refuge of the unfaltering seeker. We reach sanctuary, an ambivalent sanctuary, where we are best served by believing.
G. E. Schwartz, the author of Only Other Are: Poems (Legible Press), is a founding member of the performance ensemble Solomons Ramada. His "We Are/ Are Not Obstinating Islands" was part of the Venice Biennale.