Do-It-Yourself Paper Airplanes
Reviewed by: Ed Bennett
Robert Frost’s statement that free verse is like playing tennis without a net sets him apart from most modern poets. Despite this, he was admired by TS Eliot and Ezra Pound, both contemporaries and both masters of free verse. It is indeed unfortunate that Frost could not read Sarah Sadie’s latest collection, Do-It-Yourself Paper Airplanes, since he would find more in common with Ms. Sadie’s poetry than not. Poet and Critic Randall Jarell praises Frost for his directness and economy as well as his verse that centers itself on the actions of ordinary people. Ms. Sadie’s poetry is centered in her home in Madison, WI where she observes everything and everyone from Johnny Appleseed to Neil Gaiman. Like Frost, her poetry is direct as it chronicles the everyday actions of ordinary people.
In her poem “Worth”, she compares crafting a poem to baking. She begins with the revelation that “a book of poems isn’t worth/the cost of an organized cake”. Women poets are told to send out their poems like men “Easy as pie. Piece of cake. Said one who never baked.” She then gives her own “recipe” for creating a poem as well as a cake.
“Come over to my kitchen. Cake’s in the oven.
Turns out, that’s all my poems, ever.
The short, staccato phrasing is the language of work, in this case, a woman busy with baking or with writing her poems. One can almost see her, aproned and hands white with flour, turning over an image or metaphor as she hurries about her kitchen. Her refrain “It’s raining outside but it’s warm in here” invites the reader to share her hospitality as well as her writing. One can almost hear the quiet echo of Frost exhorting: “You come, too”.
Although Ms. Sadie references cooking, music and occasional psalm, the underlying theme of much of the poetry in this collection concerns the art of creating poetry. Her poem “Facing the Sculpture When the Sculptor Is Away” sounds like the title of an ekphrastic poem. In reality, it is a poem about inspiration, in this case brought about by the sculpture before her. She describes the metallic sculpture before her, finds it taut and “carrying a promise”. She then moves beyond the sculpture with:
“…You split this poem
Literally, the sculpture begets the poem, both works of art breathing and full of life. “There is no other/ place to be, the iron breathes”, the poem and the metal now breathing independently yet linked by the subject, conjoined in an act of creation. The poet ends with
“as my hand moves across the keys like a whisper, closer
Like her previous books, Sarah Sadie’s Do-It-Yourself Paper Airplanes contains poems that speak with a directness not often found in other poets. I would recommend this for the general reader but also strongly recommend it for anyone writing poetry today. This is not a “how-to” on writing poetry; it is more of a “show-and-tell” where a gifted poet opens herself and her creative influences for all to see.
Randall Jarell, when he wrote about Frost, referenced the plainspoken language of his poems but went further, pointing out that beyond this directness there was an ontological depth that resonated with the reader. This same depth can be found in Sarah Sadie’s contemplation of carrot cake as well as the reflection of a tree in a pond.
I could not end this review without mentioning that the last page of the book contains a diagram on how to make a paper airplane. Be assured that, like everything else in this collection, it works well.