Wars Don't Happen Anymore by Sarah White
ISBN: 978-0-9904287-5-6; 6 x 9 in. 66 pages $16.95
War poems are variously full of anger, bitter irony, gore, and fervent protest that the poet already knows is futile. Such tonalities lie just beyond the outworks of Sarah White’s poems in Wars Don’t Happen Anymore and sometimes invade them. But at the center of these poems is a resonant core of grief and loss brilliantly modulated—simple elegy, the brilliant hues of vainglory, the taste of blood and iron in exotic colonies, the symphonic folly of imperial gallantry, the gorgeous flare of destruction, the endless misreading of history, the disfigurement of mind and body—in short the sorrows of war passed through a sensibility at once exquisite and capacious and one we sometimes almost wish did not remember so well.
I’ve been reading your poems this cold, snowy afternoon. “Enjoy” is not the right word but I have been rapt and edified. —Wars Don’t Happen Anymore is a perfect title for a book that takes on the delusions, regrets, and brutal facts of war. Sarah White’s poems testify to specific circumstances that charge each death or reprieve from death with a story or memory or image. She has not backed down from the pity we rarely let ourselves feel. Anyone whose life has been touched by war, which is to say everyone, should read these poems whose anguished occasions are so finely suspended in the terrible amber of time.
In her new collection, Sarah White blends her prodigious poetic gifts with a deep knowledge of history and literature to produce a unique slant on the folly and losses of never-ending war, interwoven with a wise and rueful take on losses within a family. The poems are varied, imaginative, musical, and surprising, and one of the great pleasures of reading the collection is
the consistency of the theme and haunting, touching echoes among the poems.
Sarah White is author of The Unknowing Muse (Dos Madres Press, 2014), Alice Ages and Ages (BlazeVox, 2010), Cleopatra Haunts the Hudson (Spuyten Duyvil, 2007), Mrs. Bliss and the Paper Spouses (Pudding House chapbook, 2007), and a lyric memoir, The Poem Has Reasons: a story of far love, on-line at www.proempress.com. She is co-translator of Songs of the Women Troubadours, Bruckner et al., (Garland, 2000). She is Professor Emerita of French from Franklin and Marshall College, and lives in New York City.