Book Review: Say Luck by Hayden Saunier

sayluckfrontcover

Of the many complements I could pay to Hayden Saunier’s second poetry collection, Say Luck,  the one that comes to mind first is that it’s fun. While there are poems of grief, doubt and anguish, those are balanced with poems of wit and awareness that ring out with gratitude for life. This ultimately is what makes the collection feel authentic and trustworthy. It’s so seldom that one can say that about a book of poems these days.

The first poem, which is also the title poem of the book, is one of my favorites. It’s in some way a reprimand for self-pity even though “Love walks down the road and death waits at the river.” and an accounting for what’s important in life—it’s a lesson in perspective:

Since you are alive and have leisure enough to read poems

I’d say luck has entered your life more than once.

The strength of Saunier’s poetry is her ability so see, to say, almost what should be obvious to us, but often isn’t. “So much goes unnoticed,” she says. The tone, diction and syntax are largely conversational even when more formal elements are used. The approach eases the reader into the poem, as if she’s letting you in on something. Usually that something comes out of a moment of illumination or discovery, as in the poem “How It Happens, Sometimes”, where an encounter with a stranger stirs a memory of the speaker’s lost mother. Other times those moments are of self-awareness “—ah yes, / you recognize your landscape now.”

A tactic Saunier is very good at is smoothly moving from, or I should say within, an image and into those moments of awareness. Sometimes it happens so subtly you hardly see it sneaking up on you, and then, there it is, some wisdom she’s dropped on your lap:

Our arguments blow over,

shake down like leaves,

all sap retracted

but we recognize the danger here:

how lumps of bullet lead

as hard and blunt

as any words we’ve said

remain suspended

            from Living by the Site of a Minor Civil War Engagement 

In passages like the one above, and many others, you see her talent for loaded lines—words and phrases casting two shadows. She moves into those lines easily, and they appear on your horizon like the crest of a hill you’ve been driving toward but didn’t know you’d reached. “The view from here / will always be the view from here, no matter / who is witness.” she writes in a poem about dealing with someone’s death.

By the end of the book, if you’ve read the poems in order, you feel as if you’ve been walked through a life, maybe as a bird sitting on the author’s shoulder, and been invited to share snippets of experience, ordinary moments and epiphanies drawn from them. She observes, catalogs, recollects, questions and offers insights, as good poets do, asking us to pay similar attention to our own surroundings.

You can find Say Luck here at Amazon.

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Poems by Siegell, Saunier and Roarty from Rodger’s Place

Yesterday we had one of the most perfect weather days for the month of October–cool enough to feel like fall, but warm enough to feel comfortable spending the day outside. And how did I spend that day? By participating in one of Rodger Lowenthal’s poetry and music parties. These parties, held in Rodger’s Wyncote, PA backyard, aim to bring poets and musicians together for an afternoon of performances. The atmosphere was unpretentious and engaging for all. At this most recent one I joined poets Paul Siegell, Hayden Saunier and Joe Roarty along with several jazz and rock musicians to entertain a very welcoming crowd seated in lawn chairs.

Rodger’s backyard is framed by a tight barrier of tall trees (they would occasionally release a display of yellow and orange leaves on our heads), which helped amplify the sound resulting in pretty impressive acoustics (particularly for Joe Roarty’s barbaric yawp).

First, I want to thank Rodger for the invitation and for welcoming all of us to his home. He’s planning another one in May, so plan to be there.

Here are some videos I recorded at the party. All are wonderful poets, so I encourage you to look for more of their work.

Poetry House Concert This Weekend

Poetry and Music in Wyncote: October 21st, 1:30 pm

Rodger Lowenthal is Having a House Party!

Poets HAYDEN SAUNIER, GRANT CLAUSER, PAUL SIEGELL and JOE ROARTY… with special, musical guests playing blues, Irish, rockabilly, bluegrass.

Small desserts appreciated. $15 donation (all proceeds to poets + musicians)
HAYDEN SAUNIER is the author of the poetry collection Tips for Domestic Travel, published in 2009 by Black Lawrence Press. Her work has appeared widely and her most recent awards include the 2011 Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry from Nimrod International Journal and the 2011 Rattle Poetry Prize. Her acting credits include The Sixth Sense, Philadelphia Diary, Hack, the voice of a broken-down stove for Ikea, and dozens of roles in the theatre. Raised in Charlottesville, Virginia, she now lives outside Philadelphia. (http://howapoemhappens.blogspot.com/2012/08/hayden-saunier.html)

GRANT CLAUSER is the author of the book, The Trouble with Rivers ( Foothills Publishing, 2012). He earned an MFA in poetry from Bowling Green State University where he was a Richard Devine Fellow. In 2010 he was selected as the Montgomery County Pennsylvania Poet Laureate by Robert Bly. He started the Montco Wordshop in Lansdale and he has conducted workshops for the Musehouse Writing Center and Philadelphia Writers Conference. His favorite dry fly is the Parachute Adams. (http://www.uniambic.com/)

JOE ROARTY has been shiprekkd on the shores of the susquehanna and has made his way 2 Philly. He is a performance artist who has performed his work across the United States.(http://www.foxchasereview.org/10SU/JoeRoarty.html)

PAUL SIEGELL is the author of three books of poetry: wild life rifle fire (Otoliths Books, 2010), jambandbootleg (A-Head Publishing, 2009) and Poemergency Room (Otoliths Books, 2008). Paul is a senior editor at Painted Bride Quarterly. Kindly find more of Paul’s work – and concrete poetry t-shirts – at “ReVeLeR @ eYeLeVeL” (http://paulsiegell.blogspot.com/).

 213 MAPLE AVE, WYNCOTE, PA 19095

DONATION $15.00. (All proceeds to poets & musicians)

Small desserts appreciated.

TO RESERVE YOUR SEAT REPLY TO

rodlow31@yahoo.com – 215-885- 5557