Sarah Vap’s "American Spikenard" is largely concerned with childhood and family. There are poems about being a girl, about grandmothers, sisters, parents. (There are also horses.) The book is dedicated to the poet’s “beautiful family” and the opening quote is a gorgeous one from Andre Breton: “The reins were made of words of love, I believe.”
What I liked most about the poems were the language and structure. They’re built like thin plates of ice that take on strange patterns, and sometimes swing out on an unexpected tangent.
The first poem sets the tone and theme:
“The little girl is everyone’s little girl. / And take that idea as far as you want...”
... “she’s similar to water.”
I have to admit I found it hard to follow some of the poems despite multiple readings. They took off in directions that didn’t make sense to me, even “intuitive sense.” Not that I’m a stickler for sense, but I found some of them hard to penetrate. Here’s the start of “No one knows the honest end or beginning,” for example:
What did you trust? That the snow would never leave us. Panther, pelvis, panther –
that they would leave.
You think something is wrong – the panther, so chronological.
Pelvises, honest. I give them that. We all teach and correct each other,
We are all identical about it.
Despite my occasional struggles, I enjoyed the book. I could be enticed into reading her other book Dummy Fire.
Here are a number of poems from the book online: