01 January 2011

The Tyranny of Milk by Sara London

The Tyranny of Milk
Paperback, 100 pages
Four Way Books
ISBN:  978-1-935536-02-4

Link to Purchase

Reviewed by Tasha Cotter
I first came in contact with Sara London’s poetry as an editor for Jelly Bucket, the literary journal published annually by the MFA program at Eastern Kentucky University. I remember reading Sara’s poetry and being happily surprised by the strange narrative of her fine poem “Terra Incognita: As Butcher Hawk Tells It.” As an editor, I wanted to publish her work immediately. Happily, this poem is featured in Sara’s first collection of poetry, The Tyranny of Milk, which was released spring 2010 with Four Way Books.

This collection of poetry is full of surprises that are bound to delight the reader. Memory seems to play a crucial role in London’s poetry.  However, London’s work is highly imaginative and enjoyable. In fact, one of my favorite poems in this collection is her poem “Love of Line: Notes for An Apprentice Shingler.”  One stanza in particular caught my eye—the fifth stanza seemed so sonically satisfying I repeated lines over and over to experience their full weight:
Order is easy to
Plan for, hard to achieve. This
Is what houses are about—
Planes that meet along degrees
we trust. Lines that say,
The weather is up to you.
I love the quiet ambiguity that haunts so many of these poems. I found myself thinking about certain passages long after moving onto the next poem. London masterfully transforms the mundane to the magical—and the end result shines. But then there are poems that seem to announce their intent such as her poem “Fugitive Sonnet.” The dramatic situation is clear enough: a teacher wants to show her students what a sonnet is and what it isn’t—
How
To tell them Not yet, Not always,

When all we ever want is Now,
Again, Forever, Yes, Take it

From a fugitive. There are,
My dears, breaths to waken

A thousand deaths.
Here again, memory moves to the forefront and the quiet ambiguity seems to fill the room. We are left to contemplate the role of art, how it is crafted, and how we can apply London’s advice to our own lives. London calls for distance and contemplation. It’s clear that London follows her own advice as so many of these poems are so carefully wrought in their detail and emotional honesty.

As I read this collection I experienced a variety of emotions: there were moments of comedy, sadness, wonder, and even heartbreak. The collection is fully alive and is bound to intrigue many readers. Above all, this is a poetry collection that makes you feel deeply. In her poem “A Man Decides” London writes,  “my heart/ could not be readier/ to break again.” It’s lines like these that magnify something deep in each one of us. Somehow we all know that London has hit upon something highly resonant, some hidden truth. 

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