In Forgetting the Salt origins meet with exhumations that wring from them their vital truths. In these poems, to remember is to want to forget, and tensions between formal and free verse define a line the poet walks from bondage to escape and expression. The nuclear family-severed-sets the stage for the human family's failings on a larger scale, yet there are redemptions of connection, of the telling itself. The last lines of these poems ring like clear bells.
Hollins University Professor
Forgetting the Salt is an astonishing collection of poems, packed with love and fury, irony and humor. Tough, urgent, surprising, these poems are both necessary and comforting.
Maria Mazziotti Gillan
Director of Creative Writing at SUNY Binghamton
Sarah Jefferis's poems in Forgetting the Salt combine dazzling metaphor with an undiminishable lyricism; here is a twenty-first century Romantic worthy of the calling. In her poems, one encounters a mind that dallies with the surreal, and yet always returns to terra firma. Like the poet Ai with whom she shares much, Jefferis's poems sparkle with their odd associations and radical suffusions--in one marvelous poem, a pyromaniac "harvests the sweet flames" as all is engulfed. In another lyric, we contemplate the gestation period of an elephant, finding in its protracted struggle our own rude calculus. Jefferis, thank goodness, astonishes as she delights; and yet, and always, there is a wise woman-centered sassy spirit. If she has traveled far from the church, she is never far from revelation. This is a stunning collection of poems--smart, elegant, and yes, fiery.
Kenneth A. McClane
W.E.B. DuBois Professor of Literature, Cornell University
Forgetting the Salt is a collection of lyrical family narrative poems that critiques the notion of a post-colonial America. This book illuminates how personal sexual violence is a microcosm for the carnage of the 21st century. Many of the poems take their lead from Coleridge's poetic ideology: Poetry Reveals itself in the balance or reconciliation of opposite or discordant qualities. The opening poem, “Colonial Williamsburg,” reveals some of these discordant qualities by juxtaposing a childhood memory of watching a reenactment of a slave auction against my mother's demand that I become properly mannered for Cotillion dance lessons. In this poem and others, I take risks in image and form. I write poems that examine what it was like to grow up in a town grappling with its history-a town that in my mind, is stuck in the 18th century.
These poems lament the South I have forgotten while simultaneously trying to cast out the South that is within me. When I write, southern metaphors, southern food images, and southern rules and rituals all arise out of me. These poems unravel the “natural laws,” of the South. The title poem, “Forgetting the Salt,” does not refer to a clumsy chef who has forgotten the most basic of her seasonings, but rather it calls up the notion that we must all be mindful of our historical longings. We are only partially present in the time in which we live, or as the final line reads, “we are not of ourselves in the moments we inhabit.”
Sarah Jefferis completed her M.F.A. at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York in 1999. She has a B.A. and an M.A. from Hollins University. Her work has appeared in The Healing Muse, accomplice. org, The Cream City Review, The Comstock Review, The Hollins Critic, The Mississippi Review, Icon, Icarus, The New Coin, The Perspectives on Multiculturalism and Diversity Journal, The Beacon Street Review, and The Naughyde Literary Journal.” She is currently a Visiting Senior Lecturer at Cornell University. She resides in Ithaca, NY with her partner and their daughter.
From the book:
Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia
What I know about America I learned when I saw June
And Ezekial shackled-swollen wrists and ankles,
head down, mouths sewn shut, and Mr. Johnson
hollering out dollar amounts to visitors from across the oceans;
and my ten-year-old self asking my mama why
the Sunday School teacher was selling my friends,
and who would buy them, and how she said:
child, for history of course, in the name of history,
and besides it gives them a summer job to remember,
and a way to support their habits.
What I know about America I learned from
the civil war boy-a member of the reenactment troupe-
who on an August night gave me Whitman
and an invitation to his tent, but not a rifle lesson
and I tried to refuse, but my protests were rain in a basin.
What I know about America I learned from the Bible
or was it Shakespeare-both large books
my mama dropped on my head to teach me Southern posture,
to manner me, prepare me for Cotillion, to dance with boys,
to appease them, and as I walked around our filthy ranch house,
mama would call out: What is John 3:16?
Or what happened to Job when he refused to answer God?
And it all boiled in my head, so I was convinced
Ophelia lay down with Moses, Cain really was Romeo's
friend, and Elijah opened the door to Hamlet again and again.
What I know about America I learned from Pocahontas
who told me not to fear tents, or the bellies of whales,
or auction blocks. Pocahontas, who taught me how to kiss
a girl, how to practice on the John Smith dolls
just before you stick pins in their heads.
The Way To Attain
for A. R. Ammons
Did you know enough to know the light
was chasing in the hall when you said welcome
home Sarah, I chose you. I had no idea what it meant
to be picked--not apart or picked at,
rather selected for something grand
which I could not name.
There are thousands of Sarah's who want.
I was left on the gym wall even
as gloves were handed out, bats
dusted off, the fat one who the teacher
didn't recall. Are you new here?
I lived in the same ranch house all my life.
Same four walls with Manwich
and Kraft on Tuesdays.
But the time rate of change is the definition
of acceleration. Or this:
a pound or two, the ear of the line, a heart.
Who selected you the morning
you left calling death
the way to attain the speed of light.
What light at what speed
could possibly hold.
is an 88 page hand-stitched paper book w/spine.
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