Country-Living Published June 2020
Publishers Weekly Review: Country, Living
Library Journal: Country, Living
A widely respected, anthologized, and awarded writer of both poetry and fiction, Sadoff is regarded as something of an elder statesman among poets. Here he returns with his eighth collection of poetry (after True Faith) to continue his exploration of culture and memory. In his mild, melancholic surrealism, he is at times reminiscent of James Tate, at times of Frederick Seidel. His manner allows him to throw disjunctive matter together, but the effect, in the best poems, goes beyond surprise to oblique illumination of the poet’s private sorrows and the country’s public ones: “Maybe we make up things to figure out the great/ divide, when to cross it.” Throughout, Sadoff looks back at driving cultural forces and acknowledges what he may not have understood at the time. Music, especially jazz, is a recurring motif, and the bond between freedom and invention is not a bad image for Sadoff’s own procedures in the lyric.
VERDICT An excellent introduction to the concerns and style of one of the most characteristic voices in poetry today, this collection is both timely and touching.
“There is an ecstatic abandon in these poems—and there is also the knowledge of experience, of our end. It’s a book where the essential, elemental force is given a vivid, unmistakable voice: “A good plan / to live by: I survived a tornado, / a marriage, a war…/ Many loved the sheen of cheerfulness, / but the animal in me kept on growling.” The poet is always announcing his love for this world, yet is first to admit: “I know I’m worth fifteen cents to the universe.” This honesty, this vivid and open contradiction is the key to staying awake in this new century of our failed empire. Ira Sadoff shows us how to listen to the fire of the lyric, how to become its “favorite stranger.” It is a beautiful, wise book.”
–Ilya Kaminsky, author of Deaf Republic and Dancing in Odessa
“Ira Sadoff’s Country, Living, has so much goddamned soul, by which I mean the thicket of hurt, shittalk, analysis, Eros, mourning, and love made into truly beautiful music. Music that somehow makes me breathe different, makes my actual body be different. Music that makes my solitude, my sorrow, crack the window. It feels so lucky to be in the presence and care of such soul. Such poetry.”
–Ross Gay, author of Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude and The Book of Delights
” To read an Ira Sadoff poem is to experience a dizzying journey. A single poem might move from the culturally and historically informed cynicism of his dominant tone, to introspection, even irrational joy— a movement which becomes part of the subject matter itself and which is powered by the magical workings of humor and the stubbornness of hope. With each book hope and joy gain a little more ground, despite the accrual of reasons to despair. I go to Sadoff’s poems for their rich honesty, their deep humanness, their complexity of vision and their energy. He is original, wholly relevant ….indispensable. “
–Jane Mead, author of To the Wren