Invisible Wife by Sarah Fox (Released by above/ground press in 2017)
Review by Greg Bem (@gregbem)
Reviewed while listening to The Awakening
The end of poetry and the beginning of practice. How the lyric cracks off the flag, chips like dried wax onto the poisoned lawns of perpetual money perpetual war. Capitalists in bulletproof vests out walking priestesses on leashes. Which window to choose. An imaginal inventory gathered like rose petals in a blue skirt.
(from “The End”)
Sarah Fox’s Invisible Wife is a tremendous range of poetry compiled within a relatively small document. The book includes 16 individual poems of startling lengths of voice and energies. Fox’s poetic spectrum is like a pendulum rocking between core states of being, utterly individual to Fox, yet reminiscent of the profoundly stunning states we are all capable of attaining. The extreme stillness and the utterly confessional emerges from one corner, while the fiery, almost choked level of spontaneity spouts up from the other. The convergence is as forced as the world is forced: the tensions of existence revving up dualities and polarities.
Soulful and cosmically bound, the book is an inspiring collection of writings rooted in (and routed through) magic and dreams, a personal pinnacle of the feminine (inclusive of matriarchy, inclusive of feminism), a challenge to history and a confrontation with loss (of romance and partners, living and death, comfort and stability, pain and horror). These poems scream, weep, and bitterly laugh at once; and yet the edge of each work here is gilt-lined with an optimism and empowering of Fox’s self.
He was a stone snake
that touched without touching,
kept burning his touch into
my mind until my mind
could not hold form. He
was a stone rising from the pit
of a fire, never not rising up.
(from “Invisible Wife”)
There is a balance in the emotional spine of these poems. With a sense of the uplifting there is a sense of the battering. Joy is no foreign word here. Trauma is no foreign word. Neither is blood. Or tradition. Or patriarchy. Or vaguer, rougher, more obscure levels of dominance and abuse, and transcendence and victory.
The materials in Invisible Wife with which Fox moves, often blending moments of history with admiration towards other women, artists, maintain a dynamic successful through the book’s inclusion of kaleidoscopic poetic forms. From the opening inspection-cum-homage of Frida Kahlo, written sparsely, in couplets, to the book’s title poem, a longer sequence imbued with symbolism in its long, vast landscape of lines, there is expansion and contraction. The sense of the body and the bodily is very present in these forms, as it is through the visceral core of the language kept within, peeking out.
Radically human, the speaker of the poems in Invisible Wife, undoubtedly mostly Fox herself going through autobiographic processes, moves back and forth, dance-like, between moments of death, moments of history, moments of ending, and engages them with a sense of the rebirth, the rekindling, the future birth of energies and life. Though not distinctly drawing on the maternal, directly or through subtext, an agency erupts from these poems that carries Fox’s wavering and complex introspection into the problems of life, happiness, and the fragile American society of recent years.
I know the union of Heaven and Earth is the origin
of the whole nature. I know a DJ who holds an egg
in his hand that never cracks, spinning
spinning his hand on rad wheels of fire.
(from “Save Me”)
In reading Fox, I could not help but think of Debrah Morkun, Anne Waldman, and Brenda Iijima as contemporaries who spin their own globes through similar methodology. And yet Fox has an acutely unique way of weaving language in her own bright and magical, wondrous way. This book, following Fox’s other publications, is inspiring and hopefully just the beginning in a lineage of similar works.
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All reviews by Greg Bem unless marked otherwise.
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