By IVY PAGE
Sarah Luczaj’s An Urgent Request is a small collection of poetry that serves up a delicious plate of familial, personal and natural images that dance on the tongue and spill into the body. The theme of internal and external voice and experience provokes the reader to examination of self. Her title poem, “An Urgent Request,” speaks of language as if it were something you could shop for.
I would like to buy some Polish grammar.
All of it.
I would like to buy a reusable bag
for the case endings.
Please segregate the genitive
from the dative well.
The title poem also plays with the parts of language and speaks as if it is missing these parts, like a child whose lexicon is not fully developed. Luczaj describes the body as poetry and says that she just needs the words in such a way that we feel the urgency of her desire.
I know exactly where I am.
First you have to give me the words!
The entire collection brings the reader from strange moments of internal conflict with external in poems like “Here Is a List of Things I Ate Yesterday” to external objects becoming part of us in “Thaw,” and back around again to stepping out of the internal and discovering a way to interact with the world in “Barking Back.” Throughout the collection, there is a complex struggle to find peace and joy in daily life.
Luczaj’s voice is beautiful and strange throughout. Many of the poems are stanzaic free verse, with the exception of one strong prose poem, “The Noise Is Still There.” This poem stands out as a key in the collection. It is primarily concerned with the “noise” inside one’s self, the static we can’t seem to turn off. Luczaj writes, “When I have said everything and feel complete. Even and specially then.” The voice of the poem is showing how this “noise” is always with us, especially in the quiet moments.
Luczaj has Ginsberg-moments in one of her poems; “Oh My Girl” presents a loose litany similar to Ginsberg’s Howl. Her sonorous diction throughout this and other poems in the collection carry a melancholy tone.
oh my girl, wanting to fill yourself and empty yourself
oh my girl, trying and trying, feeding your babies and
wanting to scream
oh my girl, buying another pair of pink shoes
oh my girl, the D string, the one long note of you.
In moving through this work, the reader will find a multitude of moments of unique language, as seen in the last line of the stanza above, “the D string, the one long note of you.” This is the language this reviewer longs for in poetry.
In “My Life Is Brilliant,” there is a dismissive tone, as if the speaker is dismissing any of his/her hardships by comparing them to greater losses. It reminded this reviewer of Elizabeth Bishop’s tone in “One Art.”
No one I love
has died so far today
every single war in this world
has passed me by
The collection is full of strong poems that work well as a collective whole. An Urgent Request is just that—an urgent request, and with a sweet passion and gentle heartache wrapped in gorgeous moments of daily life, Luczaj compels her reader to turn the page.
The themes and internal dialog through this collection have a very slight feminine slant, but audiences of both sexes will relate well to the poems. Luczaj’s voice is brilliant and unique, and An Urgent Request is a must read.