POETRY

Madness

Penguin. Oct. 2017. 96p. ISBN 9780143131700. pap. $18; ebk. ISBN 9781524705572. POETRY
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In this beautifully concentrated howl of a book, a startling debut, queer Jewish writer and educator Sax explores mental illness, addiction, and the unshakable grip of sexual desire. He's clearly one to feel things intensely ("life ripping open before me/ led to me being ripped open by life"), and the poems can be relentless, painful reading. But however raw, they're also coolly crafted; readers can admire Sax for the sharply observed sentiment "anything can be a drug if you love it," followed swiftly by "anyone can be a drug if you love him," while also appreciating how effectively those lines echo each other. Sax can be both funny ("thank you// science for teaching me what to fear most") and angry (his poems are "wild birds/ pecking eyeholes in the windows of hotels"), and he's refreshingly frank as he speaks out to us ("spare me the lecture/ on the survival/ of my body/ & i will spare you my body."
VERDICT A terrific first collection; highly recommended for poetry lovers.

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