A review of

Satin Cash

by Lisa Russ Spaar

Central question: Is poem a noun or a verb?
Format: 72 pp., paperback; Size: 5 ½" x 8"; Price: $14.00; Publisher: Persea Books; Editor: Gabriel Fried; Print run: 1,500; Book design: Dinah Fried; Typeface: Electra; Author’s favorite Emily Dickinson line: “No Rose, yet felt myself a’bloom, / No Bird — yet rode in Ether —” (two-line variant added to a master letter, 1861); Growing in the poet’s garden: everything from old-stock bridal-wreath spirea to Brazilian verbena; Representative lines: “If there is a precedent for being, / perhaps it is in this boreal timbre // leveling the spine, lawlessly / conjuring the ghostly bodies to which // you were once attached / before they became — unlikely —”

Lisa Russ Spaar’s last book of poems, Blue Venus, dwelled primarily in memory, meditation, and the mind. While her new book follows suit, it is also intensely bodied, uncovering the material alongside the metaphysical. Spaar’s language has become more muscular, more erotic, and more insistently visceral, as if by attending to the particularity of words she could conjure them into being. In a sense, she does. The poems of Satin Cash are so attuned to the natural world that hills become “script,” the bark of a sycamore reveals “a stuccoed font,” and a stream serves as “a transcript.” If such textuality suggests that nature must be read with care, Spaar is too philosophical a poet to accept even her own interpretations, recognizing the implicit mystery attached to every word and thing. Thus, in response to the noise of sparrows, one speaker asks, “Noun or verb, that singing?”

We hope you enjoy this excerpt.

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—Jennifer Chang

Jennifer Chang’s first book of poems, The History of Anonymity, was recently published by VQR Poetry Series/University of Georgia Press. New poems appear or are forthcoming in Boston Review, the Kenyon Review, New England Review, the New Republic, and A Public Space.

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