Sarah Maclay at the Artists’ Union Gallery, Ventura

“The sea is dangerous, they say, but not if you’re the sea.”

-Sarah Maclay, “Ocean in White Chair,” from The White Bride

Sarah Maclay drew me down to the seaside tonight, to hear her read poems from her first book, Whore, her second book, The White Bride, and selections from a new, unpublished manuscript. It was great to be back at the Artists’ Union Gallery, among friends. Sarah read poems back-to-back, like a line of train cars speeding down the coast through evening fog. And, as is the tradition at this venue, and precisely at the end of one of Sarah’s poems, the 7:50 freight blared through the dark.

Though many of the poems she read were prose poems, her compelling imagery and sonorous delivery made her work sound as though it might have been written with the blade-like precision of couplets. For all of her unexpected imagery and captivating associations, Sarah is not a surrealist–in much the same way that a poet like Sandra Alcosser is not a surrealist. In fact, Maclay brings to the urban landscape much of what Alcosser brings to the wild places–rough, self-startling observations, deep sensuality, and a ravenous fascination with human concerns–all balanced with a keen, keen ear. It was a pleasure to hear Sarah read tonight, and to step out into the salt air, changed.