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Sunday, January 27, 2013

Review of Earlier Lives by Sara Dailey

Can writing poetry console? Can it deliver solace in the face of unbearable grief? Perhaps more to the point—can poetry do or accomplish anything that aids ordinary people in coping with the human condition? I think so. Apparently, so does Sara Dailey. Her book of poems, Earlier Lives, looks at anguish in an angular, near scientific way that includes sharp observations and a hygienic reductionism. Together Dailey’s collection of poems deals with the traumatic loss of her younger brother in a motorcycle accident, made more intense by her broken family history and the subsequent closeness of their sibling relationship. Throughout the book the poet studies the various facets of her overwhelming sorrow and that very act seems to engender a useful catharsis. Indeed, Dailey lords over her tempestuous territory with absolute control and the reader gets to see this commanding poet define a very difficult subject.

“Listen and I will fill your ears with truth,” says Dailey in her opening and introductory poem, Globe Artichoke. She lets her readers know that they are in for a rough, not a smooth experience. The tipped spikes and leathery scales need to be worked through and the density needs to be thinned out. The poet continues,

…What you desire of me, sparse

in proportion to what you will discard.

Ardi shauk, ground thorn, artichoke:

Like a throat full of accordions

in a sommelier’s nightmare,

Come taste my heart.

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