Reviewed by Randall Radic
The reviewer freely and enthusiastically admits to knowing absolutely nothing about poetry. Except for one thing. He knows what he likes. He likes Shelley, Lord Byron, Blake, e.e. cummings, and August Kleinzahler. To the list of favorites he now adds Sarah Sarai, who has written a wonderful volume of poetry called The Future Is Happy. It is full of truly excellent poems.
Like a Sorceress, Sarah has a magical way with words. She casts them forth and beguiles the reader by creating an image in the visual region of his brain. He finds himself breathless, struggling in the grasp of titanic emotions that he used to feel – once upon a time – but had forgotten about. Which means her verse is enchanting and mystical while at the same time being concrete. It’s like concrete love, if there is such a thing. Which is a fancy way of saying it has substance, originality and – get this! – is comprehensible.
What is most appealing is her use of traditional and Classical allusions. Most contemporary poets don’t have the intestinal fortitude to bring the Bible into their poesy. Why? One supposes they believe it signals intellectual anarchy, the prostitution of logic. Not Sarah. This poetess has balls, which explains why her stuff is so excellent and so readable. For example, in “Let Me Ask You This,” which is about great sex, she speaks of
who’ll break stone tablets so
you get this night right
Talk about hormonal exuberance and the alpha-theta syncopation of sexual excitation! This is the real deal, making magic wands from words, which in turn zap into spells and exsufflations and cantrips and merrythoughts.
In another poem called “The Brave One,” she combines images of Jodie Foster, God, Scheherazade, Jimmy Carter, and Emily Dickinson to produce a singularly imaginative work on how proximity narrows perspective. Or try it this way: “The Brave One” asks a very simple question: Is this, in sum, any way to live? Which is a very serious question, seeming to demand much soul-searching. But as the reader reads the poem, he has a smile on his face, because there’s an element of impishness in the question. Like Bugs Bunny, looking over the barrel of Elmer Fudd’s shotgun, asking “What’s up, Doc?”
This is the essential quality of genius.
The reviewer’s favorite – one of ‘em anyway – is “Emma Bovary and Anna Karenina in Heaven.” The title alone makes one laugh out loud. And reading it is like listening to ZZ Top sing “Jesus just left Chicago and he’s bound for New Orleans.” It focuses the attention because of its quirkiness. The poem starts out like this:
Two suicides here? There’s no screening.
Want a pocketbook kingdom come?
You’ll ascend. The buzz
On heaven is a lot of white noise.
That last line is a killer, simply for its triple entendre. It leaves a delicious sensation rippling through one’s diaphragm.
If you love excellent poetry, buy this book. For Sarah Sarai writes poetry to relish – poetry that one can read out loud to the one you love. Sarah knows how to give words muscle. Her verse is so buff it hurts.