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Chapbook Corner: Trey Sager & Michael Ford
Over in Rain Taxi’s online Chapbook Corner is a review of Trey Sager’s Dear Failures and Michael Ford’s Where We Expect to See You Soon, both published recently by Ugly Duckling Presse. E. Marie Bertram writes:
Where Ford’s collection is written in a form he invented called the “89”—the lines, stanzas, and syllables in each poem end up factoring to the number 89, a move that would make Marianne Moore’s tricorn hat spin with delight—Sager’s collection follows a looser, less mathematical design, with each poem addressed, in epistolary fashion, to one in a series of supposed failures. But when it comes to what their respective structures contain, both are shot through with a peripheral but palpable nostalgia and a subtle, driving generosity.
It’s nice to see chapbooks get deserved attention. More (and please check original for correct line breaks):
There’s a regular sense in Ford’s work of the small stuff of everyday life billowing toward the epic, a grand narrative that might offer some version of redemption, or at least momentary relief. For Sager, though, the past is less a corrective for how to live and more a touchstone for how to continue living, as in “Dear Charles”:
After a huge blizzard in the late seventies, I jumped off my neighbor’s roof
into what I thought was a cushy, six-foot pile of snow,
but it was actually a row of bushes camouflaged by the storm.
I fell through the bushes all the way to the ground, and the snow above me caved
in all around me.
I started screaming, but I was alone and no one could hear me,
so slowly, like a woodchuck,
I climbed my way out.
Sager’s sure-footed language makes this fable completely believable, and the speaker’s whimsical, woodchuck-like instinct to survive seems to carry over into the chapbook’s other poems. This is a speaker who, in “Dear Nostalgia,” says things like
Last night I ate a huge pot brownie and took my dog for a walk.
While he ate street grass, I began thinking about the over-simplicity we have
conferred upon dogs.
and then, in “Dear Me”:
After some time, we wandered around and found some privacy behind a few trees.
But gusts of wind curled through the pine branches, and as we tossed small handfuls of
my mother’s ash into the air,
the wind spit her dust back at us, onto our faces and hair,
and into our open mouths.
To braid what’s humorous with what’s moving, and vice versa, takes a deft hand, and Sager’s got it.
Read the full review here.