Book: A Sweeter Water
Poet: Sara Henning
Publisher/Date: Lavender Ink, 2013
Why I bought the book: I got the chance to hear Sara Henning speak at AWP as part of the panel The Bigness of the Small Poem (Sandy Marchetti was also a member of this panel) and after hearing her talk about her own work and then read some of it, I wanted to buy her book. She also spent some time during the panel talking about the poem “Song” by Brigit Pegeen Kelly, which is a favorite of mine.
What I admire about this collection: There were two things that struck me the most about A Sweeter Water. I greatly admire the way that Sara writes about women and being a woman and all things female. I spend a lot of time in my own poetry examining myself as a woman and I write a lot about other women in my life, and I often struggle to find authenticity in the subject matter. I don’t want to come off as patronizing or overly sentimental or cliched, so the middle section of A Sweeter Water where there are poems titled “How to Make Babies,” “First Striptease,” “First Kiss,” “Girls Like Us” & “How to Pray Like a Girl” (just to name a few) really resonated with me. I think what drove it home for me was that I wanted to share these poems and share them with my students and my sister and my mother and my best friend. They’re beautiful and sexy and heartbreaking and full of grit.
The other part of the collection that struck me was that Sara really knows how to end a poem. This is something I struggle with constantly, so as I started to read my way through the book, I took notice of the fact that I was constantly feeling a punch in the gut every time I finished a poem. The endings linger in your mind, which I think is what want them to do.
Favorite lines: “Memory, a roof with sheeted tin, is a mosaic of insulation, bends under the weight” (15). “…their tight jeans, stomach sunk/below where sharp hipbones/as though a bit of their souls were meant/to cradle there” (49). “We all enter the world/as no one’s drunk angel, drunk on pain, expecting to be loved” (55). “Asters that never knowing the dirt by feel, learn to root in the wind” (34).
Favorite poems: “Birthday,” “How We Love,” “Three Themes On Rescue,” “As Though the Stars Could Keep Us,” “Eros,” “The Last Dahlia” & “How to Pray Like A Girl.”
Links: Here is a link to the Brigit Pegeen Kelly poem I mentioned above. There’s a note regarding this poem at the end of A Sweeter Water concerning Sara’s poem “Three Themes on Rescue.”
A Sweeter Water is also full of dahlias, which are beautiful, elegant flowers. I’ve wanted to grow some of my own for years, but last summer I was finally able to nurse some into full bloom:
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