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 abecedarium, fully using the page, and challenging all manner of received wisdom. Employing lyrics, lists, arguments, narratives, and meditations, 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
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.
“Sajé’s contagious appetite for the world makes reading Vivarium
a heady experience: I never knew where the next poem might take me, but I wanted to go…. Sajé’s drive to communicate wills an ever-more-innovative search for prosodic forms—note, letter, ode, essay, litany, prayer, index, and interview—yet the prizing of solitude balances her appetite for engagement.” Robin Becker, Georgia Review
“Sajé actually takes the reader back to his or her most basic understanding of language and gives that understanding a violent and welcomed push. Vivarium
, an abecedarian book, is pure, verbose kinetic energy. These are poems that we learn from. It is as if Sajé comes to life in them and sometimes reads to us, sometimes plays with us, and it is for each reader to interpret where each piece leads. Collectively, though, these poems force us to examine our darknesses. The result is beautiful.” — Sarah Dravec, Barn Owl Review
“There is something quite compelling in the playful way in which Sajé’s poems stretch, bounce and lean, accumulating themselves into a kind of map-making structure, opening into parts both familiar and unknown. Poems are included alphabetically, titled either by single letters or phrases, and left to accumulate towards a structure that is held together with ease; a single unit that is playful, tight and almost bulletproof.” — Rob McLennan’s blog