Filled with reminders of human fragility, but still exalting life in vigorous tones, Sarah Matthes’s debut poetry collection, Town Crier, is a momentous introduction to a sensitive voice.
Dedicated to a friend and fellow poet who passed from cancer, the text is marked by the internal pivots required of someone reckoning with a beloved’s departure. Matthes dreams of an afterlife that is perhaps “just another planet. // Maybe it’s close. // Maybe I can see it from here.” Though her pain remains pellucid, she arrives at her friend’s yahrzeit by accident, and begins to live again without realizing it:
Then one day a whole day goes by.
You’re not in the tree. You’re not even
in the bird.
Whether concerned with this loss or other topics, Matthes’s poems are variously playful, mythical, mournful, and dreamy; many are combinations of these. Some reflect on missed connections, or on the unavoidable pull of memories. Cabinets of curiosity are constructed:
I wanted to make a museum
comprised entirely of relics
from my most beloved friends.
I wanted to put strange fuzz
under glass and keep it
forever strange and fuzzy.
Golems are a recurrent symbol: of resurrection, of protection—of life brought into being either through sheer force of will, or because a reconfiguration is imagined necessary: “Sometimes women like me are called golems, too. / Not human until another human beats inside us.” “613 Mitzvot” tracks a Tinder connection gone wrong because of an outpouring of Kabbalistic thoughts; “Coda” challenges tidy rabbinical explanations of human origins. But even when borrowing from extant folklore or practices, Matthes finds a way to make what could be dismissed as familiar all her own.
Town Crier is a daring and surprising debut poetry collection.
Michelle Anne Schingler
Disclosure: This article is not an endorsement, but a review. The publisher of this book provided free copies of the book to have their book reviewed by a professional reviewer. No fee was paid by the publisher for this review. Foreword Reviews only recommends books that we love. Foreword Magazine, Inc. is disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.