Read This: An Urgent Request by Sarah Luczaj

An Urgent Request ($10) is not only the debut chapbook from British poet Sarah Luczaj, but also the debut of poet Cecilia Woloch's Fortunate Daughter imprint for Tebot Bach, the SoCal poetry nonprofit and press. Both Luczaj and Woloch should be very proud because An Urgent Request is something quite special.

The poems in the chapbook are indeed urgent and you will read this in one sitting, hurriedly turning the page to get to the next one. Then you'll start from the beginning and read again, more slowly, letting these short, elegiac poems sink into your brain. As the title poem commands, Deliver those words please/I cannot wait any longer. And Luczaj delivers for 24 pages with nary a lemon in the bunch. Every poem and word is urgent and essential.

Luczaj's observations -- to quote Whitman -- contain multitudes, even in simple lines like, No one I love/has died so far today from "My Life is Brilliant" or in the admonition in "How To Take Control of Your Life":

Be careless. Always
wear clean underwear
in case you get run over.
Listen, don't listen.

Don't wear underwear.
Don't get run over.

There is a sense of loss and of missing the dead (which is the title of a poem in this collection), but again there is the urgency to move forward as in "Barking Back," where an epigraph by G.P. Taylor warns against walking the "black dog" of depression:

Oh my god,
I'm breathing. I'm getting up
now with my palms open

and my boots on.

I chose "For José Drouet" because it is stunning in its simplicity and tone. Even typing it up for this review, I had to stop and catch my breath. Any poem that can do that is worth its weight in gold, but to find an entire chapbook of them is priceless.

José Drouet

José, the light is moving in the water
José I carved a poem in the walls of a room

the room was dust
and the planets were
trapped as the people
in it and it broke
on them, and the room
broke on the sky which
is made of dirt as
the room is made of
dirt and the people
are made of dirt
and also the stars

it broke
on your body made of stars
José and now the words
are set in those walls
forever, too deep, and no one
is allowed to stand
between them, my room
sits alone in the city
José the light is moving in the water
and you are a mouthful
a handful now, a scattering

I wanted to tell you this
José who broke the windows

José the room was dust


christine said…
Wow. Speechless. I LOVE these! I need to order this one, and Cecilia's. Great write up, Collin.
Maggie May said…
You are an intimidatingly wonderful and praising reviewer. That poem IS marvelous.
Collin Kelley said…
I've caught flack for it, but I only review books I would recommend to others. That's why it's called "Read This." There are so many books to wade through out there, I only try to steer readers toward what I think they will enjoy.
Lisa Allender said…
Collin--I adore that poem "...Jose'..."
That kind of mystical writing makes you immediately want to not only read more, but write more, too.
Tara said…
I want a copy now. Thanks for this review.
David said…
Love the poem. Maybe I'll look into this further and plug it.

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