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Book Reviews

Questions About the Stars

by Robyn Sarah

Robyn Sarah’s new collection of poetry is the work of a mature writer, confident in her craft and material. In finely nuanced poems of middle age – “Here I am…/ in the middle of my life / expectancy” – Sarah records the pain of deepest loss and the joy of life’s smallest pleasures. Like the aging poet she describes in her first poem, Sarah seeks grace through writing and offers her pellucid verse to the grateful reader.

The four sections of Questions About the Stars move backward and forward across time and place. The volume traces a personal history of the speaker amid the urban landscape of Montreal, where Sarah has lived all her life. Several poems evoke a cherished grandmother. The young woman celebrates her elder’s strength and nurturing, while the adult mourns her grandmother’s death. In poems about motherhood, mother and child give birth “each to the other, constantly, / in a single fluid movement.” Convincingly, Sarah describes the blind leap into motherhood and the raising of children to adulthood as the briefest of life’s interludes.

The most poignant poems in the collection record the demise of a marriage. An ominous self-awareness shapes even those poems that render the early relationship of two compatible individuals. Later, the speaker acknowledges the expansive unhappiness of her marriage and its final explosion, when “the world / was without form, and void.” The simplest delights of lunching with a friend and walking in the rain suggest the likelihood of second chances which Sarah embraces. In the work’s final section, she incorporates material from Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time in her own poetic exploration of the subject.

This collection reveals Sarah’s mastery of several verse forms. In addition to the lyric, she includes haiku, villanelle, and prose poems. Sarah is a poet of day-to-day life whose precise images and crystalline vision are among her greatest achievements.