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There are worlds we can imagine, but we live in this one: contingent and absurd. In her first full-length collection, Sarah V. Schweig aims to capture something essential and universal about this faulted inheritance.
These poems operate on the notion that the lyric can be discovered in scattered headlines, office-wide emails, road signs—the detritus of the everyday. But a poem doesn’t stop at found fragments; it creates something from them. These poems question and re-question what can be truthfully said, rediscovering the lyric in the very process of thinking, revising, and re-envisioning.
Sarah V. Schweig is the author of the chapbook S. Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Black Warrior Review, BOMB, Boston Review, HTML Giant, the Iowa Review,Tin House, Verse Daily, the Volta, West Branch, the Winter Anthology, and elsewhere. She currently lives in New York City.
“The effect of reading Sarah Schweig’s verse is quietly dazzling and hard to describe: hallucinatory nuggets of feeling are shaped through extraordinary formal precision, apparently everyday observation, a taste for bathos, repetition and great precision of utterance. And the whole is full of longing and desire. Tinged with delicious regret and distance, Schweig evokes depth of feeling that will resonate with the reader. No, this is not nothing, but something fine indeed. It is a remarkable achievement.”—Simon Critchley
“These poems forge new paths where worlds have disappeared. Out of the tenuous rises the emphatic, with possibilities offered like prayers.”—Ann Beattie
“These poems issue from a mourning for a ‘missing’ one (father, lover, child, God), an affliction of abandonment that propels the speaker into a triangulated, contingent world: a welter of cities, love affairs, dazzling sonic performances, and philosophical travel—including ‘treatises’ on nada and syllogisms on meaning (‘there is no heaven, and no answers / to our questions’). Witty, intellectually ruthless, the mantra of these poems seems to be: travel lightly in this world of woe. ‘Take nothing with you.’ Yet, however unlikely it may be to believe in, let alone bear the onus of, anything ‘PURE and PERFECT,’ this remarkably mature first book joins the ages-old dialogue about beauty, truth, and love: the (trans)figuration inherent in all ardor, all making. ‘Once there was a man, and then there wasn’t,’ she writes in a tour de force elegy for the late poet Mark Strand. How to respond to such loss except ‘cover my face with my hands?’”—Lisa Russ Spaar
"Few books of poetry so willingly acquiesce to the negative potential of their constituent words as empty signifiers. And yet the words gain something for what they lose, like containers which, by being emptied of contents, diminish in cash value while becoming more variously useful. If her materials are freighted with history and teetering always on obsolescence, if they are at once overloaded and hollow, no less are they things capable of redescription, of new and far-flung application. Indeed, it’s uniquely hard to represent Schweig’s poetry in brief quotation. Any words selected are likely to be repeated elsewhere in the poem, to new and cumulative effect. The mode is iterative, provisional, “a kind of demonstration of how one idea or image / can always follow from the last.” This is not writing desperate to flee banality; it does not feign a special capacity for feeling nor delude itself that all is radiant and thick with consequence. Schweig instead gleans force from her own ambivalence, from a sense of distance and divested attention. In the spirit of the book’s titular allusion to the Gospel of Luke, we travel light. There’s no grasping at cheap prizes (“Clarity over emotion, remember. Story over sentiment”). This renunciation makes space for surprise."