$16.95 paper, ISBN 978-1-936797-44-8
May 1, 2014
A vivarium is an enclosure for living things — plants or animals — which might likewise be said of a poem. With a vivacious sensibility and unruly leaps from elegiac to ironic, Sajé’s new book is an abecedary, fully using the page, and challenging all manner of received wisdom. Employing lyrics, lists, arguments, narratives, and meditations — along with an interview, a rebus, a sonnet, a pantoum, and a sestina — and including prose poems devoted to particular letters as well as invented visual or conceptual pieces, in Vivarium the alphabet is endowed with power far beyond usefulness. Form breathes life in this book, and the lived emotion of these poems defies death.
“In Vivarium, Natasha Sajé, one of poetry’s most ludic and encyclopedic essayists, explores language — and the alphabet — in terms both acerbic and lush, exposing the roots of the world’s ills, and its many rooted pleasures. In a word, zowie!” — Mary Ruefle
“Resourceful, restless, witty and substantially intelligent — what a rare combination of erudition and nimbleness this group of poems exhibits. Their range is marvelously wide in both form and tone . . . Each poem surprised me, taught me something, delighted and illuminated and stretched.” — Dean Young, in a citation for the Academy of American Poets’ 2008 Alice Fay di Castagnola Award
Natasha Sajé’s first book of poems, Red Under the Skin (Pittsburgh, 1994), won the Agnes Lynch Starrett Prize, and her second collection, Bend (Tupelo, 2004), was given the Utah Book Award in Poetry. Her book of essays Windows and Doors: A Poet Reads Literary Theory will be published by the University of Michigan Press in 2014. She teaches at Westminster College in Salt Lake City and in the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA program.
O how we hanky panky harum
scarum in our happy home, dancing hootchy
kootchy. Sure, it makes for hugger mugger
but we give a hoot for happenstance.
The yard is full o’ hound and hares; the door
adorned with harlequins; in the closets, hand-
me-downs. If Hammurabi and his Queen come
by, we won’t be hoity-toity, we’ll
offer haggis or humble pie. Our bed
floats on hocus-pocus (our corpore
wholly habeas) and the kitchen hums
a hymn, Hail to Higgledy-Piggledly.
If the world can’t call our hurly burly hunky
dory, let it hara-kiri if it dares.
What you do to me. With me. What I’ve
Learned to do with you. A language
Of bliss, a sublingual, interlingual,
Bilingual tale that lasts from labial
Lark through the long light of dawn.
A trickle of terroir layered in taste, liquid
As thirst. More than touch, less than labor,
This lesson in tilt and lather. The tang of a lyre
Of skin, a lick of liberal tact in tandem.
Our own langue d’oc, turtled in time
And tinkered by thrill. It’s not lex, not law—
But logos, the tabor and talisman of love.