Sunday, March 07, 2021

Sara Wainscott, Insecurity System: Poems


Sleep is the pretense of ease.
Sleep aggravates the cash flow problem.
I quit the real jobs and keep the stupid ones

because of my distaste for work.
Cheekbones earn sweet talk and they deserve it.

Before a party I slap my face
to help me seem to flourish. Flowerish
I attend a party, but then of course

I must attend a party. A portrait of a princess
is a lost da Vinci is knock-off grocery girl.

Occasion imposes on me to rise.
I’m as sensitive as a poet, as a rose
languishing in a photograph

of Jacqueline Onassis. (“Flowerish”)

I’m intrigued by Chicago poet Sara Wainscott’s full-length debut, Insecurity System: Poems (New York NY: Persea Books, 2020), produced as the 2019 winner of the Lexi Rudnitsky First Book Prize. Insecurity System is structured as a quartet of extended meditative suites each constructed out of fifteen otherwise untitled sonnets. The four sections are titled “Spaceship,” “Flowerish,” “Future cities” and “The supernatural violet blues.”

“A person doesn’t need a reason,” she writes, as part of the opening suite, “to build a flying saucer on her own damn property: / people have to be allowed some space // to figure out the limits of their understanding. / I think it’s normal to be terrified / of losing it [.]” Each sequence of poems, each suite of sonnets, exists as much as a chain, each poem linking directly to the next, whether by a repeated line, image or idea, and seeing where such might further. Wainscott’s lyrics move through crises and cosmos and layers of grief, layers of longing and layers of dust, all woven together into a restlessness urgency. “Spirited so,” she writes, “we make a home. / We plot our obsolescence / and hatch our tallies.” Wainscott writes the differences in being, and how we are changed through our experiences, loves and losses, and through simply moving in and through the world. She writes on the moments small and large of living and of a life, an articulation of clouds, perseverance, writing, roses and sleep, and the ways in which we experience. Her thoughts on sleep are reminiscent, also, of Anne Carson’s essay on sleep from Decreation (Penguin, 2005), as Wainscott examines not just the idea and experience of sleeping, but that in-between space between conscious states. “But we abide. You are a cloud,” she writes as part of the third section, “and I am another cloud, and writing this / perpetuates the going on.”

Come home, the name for it
unfixed and yet
embedded. A rose was me

in a past go-round and gave up too.
Trick a brain to sleep

with computerized renditions of lake sounds,
barf roses into everything,
sponge every crevice of a mouth.

If I wanted to, I could.
I could come into the house

because I am not chained without.
I am pulled into a memory

of a modest bedroom
preserved exactly as my last self left it. (“Future cities”)


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