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Barter: POEMS (Illinois Poetry Series) Paperback – April, 2003
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Few things make my heart leap like the prospect of a new, unread book of poetry by Ira Sadoff, one of the best poets presently working in America. The only problem is that I tend to read them all too quickly, and am then stuck waiting for another two or three years until Sadoff releases his next book.
Barter fits all those angles exactly. It's a book that begs to be consumed in one sitting, despite the reader's knowledge that it's going to be a while before you get any more. From the very first poem, Sadoff lets you know he's going to be breaking every conventional rule, and doing it in such a way that you can't help but be awed:
"Nevertheless, I want to talk about it. Those scarred bodies
on the hospital table, they're white chalk children use
to deface the sidewalk. The deer fed in the gazebo,
where the salt lick was barely safe from the fox." ("The Soul")
Not only does the man use "soul," the most overused word in poetry, in a poem, he uses it as the title. And despite its subject matter, the poem still comes off as brilliant, original, a combination of the nature poetry of Hayden Carruth and the language poetry of John Ashbery, but with Sadoff's distinctive, authoritative voice.
This is what poetry is supposed to be. A while ago, I proposed (in a review of Clay Eshleman's delicious Hotel Cro-Magnon) changing the canon that gets taught in schools to something that kids will actually like. Barter is a book that should fit well with a new curriculum. Don't let this one get away without reading it. **** ½