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Emotional Traffic (1989): Your Baggage Is Lost in Poughkeepsie

Ira Sadoff, Emotional Traffic (Godine, 1989)

[originally posted 28Mar2001]

A painting of a woman sitting on a bed adorns the book's cover.

The inner world and its rewards.
photo credit: tower.com

What separates great poetry from good? Oftentimes the question is unanswerable, as the quality of poetry which makes it poetry is undefinable enough without putting qualifiers on it. But sometimes greatness is achieved simply through the act of putting an old idea in a new way. This is often what makes Ira Sadoff one of the two or three finest poets working in America today.

Sadoff’s third book of poetry continued the tradition of slow, solid work that has defined his career. This is poetry that demands a leisurely reading, but leaves enough in the open to allow the reader ease of access; much of it is painful, most of it questions incessantly, all of it demands to be read:

Incest

Inbred. Inscribed. Interred. In my house,
the doors locked, the lips
stuck to each other (like glue, she said),
langushing–
each seduction is a slah,
an utterance with body parts, a slang
of neck submerged in whispers. What breast belongs to
a mother
exclusively? What speech does not imply
withholding union, the little boy
having sex with the past? I’m not stirred
by strangers. Each taboo’s a story
ending, bones a dog buried in the yard,
the neatly-pressed negligee set out on the bed.
Someone drew the shades, the eyelids closed,
her finger on his lips
authored the hush. Kiss me goodbye,
she said. Her flesh
an entrance without exit. Shame’s
the world’s. It’s not myself
I hate.

What else can I possibly say? Let the work speak for
itself. *****

About Robert "Goat" Beveridge

Media critic (amateur, semi-pro, and for one brief shining moment in 2000 pro) since 1986. Guy behind noise/powerelectronics band XTerminal (after many small stints in jazz, rock, and metal bands). Known for being tactless but honest.

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