It is 4 a.m. It is early morning. It is summer and so it isFormer Edmonton resident (now two years into her PhD in Chicago) Sarah Lang’s first poetry collection, The Work of Days (Toronto ON: Coach House Books, 2007), is a single poem, a long poem in three parts. Built as an extension of moments, the poem is less an accumulation than it is a single moment stretched, explored and endlessly pulled apart. And, using spare language and the page itself, The Work of Days is a poem carved and crafted with as much blank space in her poem as text. As the copy on the back cover writes, it uses the phrase “pure light” and the word “refracts.” This is a poetry of mounting and surmounting light.
already light. And it is warm. You have everything. (part one)
This that outpouring of colour.What kind of portrait does Sarah Lang paint? Listen to this refrain that sits at the end of part one:
This that body broken.
This that stretched.
This that phosphorescence.
This that even now.
This that lie.
This that smooth floor.
This that crude pleasure.
Your arm around a white, plastic chair. (part one)
The process of not having remembered differs greatly from thatWhat I admire about this book is the smallness, the closeness, the precision. Constructed far more by scalpel than out of bare bone, Lang’s poem cuts down beyond the heart of the matter and into the essence itself of the heart. This is an enviable poetry, an enviable poem.
of forgetting: there is no record to misplace. Of light or of light
filtered. What is necessity. Today a slow sequence. A pale cheek
to pale tide. Today green. White. White. White. Green. In slips,
lists. By rote. Today I slept. A movie slips. What is real, what is
hallucinated. The motion of a line opening. What I must look like. Today
I took it easy, which doesn’t mean there is nothing to be done.
We have no curtains. On the twenty-seventh floor,
I roll my knuckles along your jaw. I was once
inelegant. You knew what you taught. A red vase
with modern arrangement. The view. Desipramine,
lithium carbonate. I don’t know if I’m polite. I have lost
perspective. The labels are scratched off; your eyes
are closed. I’m sure there are trees. That there is wind.
Sarah Lang launches The Work of Days in Edmonton on Thursday, September 27 at 7:00 at Greenwoods Bookstore, 7925-104 Street, and in Ottawa [the same day as the ottawa small press book fair & only a block or so away] on Saturday, October 27, 5pm, at The Manx Pub, 370 Elgin Street (as part of the Plan 99 Reading Series) with Jessica Westhead, Cara Hedley and David McGimpsey. Check out other parts of her North American tour here or even here.