Book Revew: Sara or the Existence of Fire

SARA front

Sara Woods, 68pgs,Horse Less Press, $15

Sara Woods’ newest collection of poetry — a highly personal work, evidenced by its title — is surreal enough to offer itself as a dark bedtime story for anyone willing to give serious attention to what might feel like whimsy.

Sara’s father was a wolf and her mother was made of moths. Brimming with colourful impossibilities, this book’s subject is constantly negotiating unanticipated and unnecessary experiences of abundance. “Sara went on a date with a large crowd of people,” begins one page (she had a nice time). Her home becomes infested with flies. She finds herself in an ocean of tungsten, or a roomful of hammers.

Amidst these rectangular vignettes, all written in Woods’ remarkable, deceptively straightforward style, are interviews that play with the role of author, reader, and character. The interviews are between Sara and the author, or between a giant fire and Sara’s house, (“F: I’m sorry if I’m bringing you down.”) Between these two forms of poems, Sara’s dog emerges as her primary foil as they fear and grapple with abandonment and death.

Woods’ plain, rhythmic language belies a powerful set of images and a skillful negotiation of surrealism and affect. Although playfully written, Sara’s isolation and dreamy destructiveness lurk just beneath—or perhaps beside—every moment of humour or generosity.

It’s a strange and delightful experience to read Sara, in which the reader feels silly and sad and sleepy all at once. (Jonathan Valelly)

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