Town Crier: Poems

Sarah Matthes

January 12, 2021

Kab­bal­is­tic poems that rec­og­nize wit as a rit­u­al of mourn­ing, win­ner of the 2020 Lexi Rud­nit­sky First Book Prize

The poems in Town Crier wry­ly express the per­va­sive nature of loss, how it suf­fus­es all aspects of a life: mem­o­ries, hopes, love, sex, lunch. The death of the author’s dear friend, the late poet Max Rit­vo, becomes the cor­ner­stone of the book, a foun­da­tion­al pain along which the poems are aligned. The poems grieve. They try to cope. They come up short. They try again, insist­ing as they do that lan­guage holds con­se­quen­tial, redemp­tive pow­ers. Sarah Matthes is equal parts jester and con­jur­er, sens­ing the pre­cious alche­my of laugh­ter and lament, cry­ing out to those who have left her and those who remain.

Discussion Questions

In Town Crier,Sarah Matthes grap­ples with the nature of mem­o­ry, grief, and desire in poems by turns humor­ous and ele­giac. Poems about loss fill with dis­cov­ery, and ground­break­ing poems about golems reclaim female agency: I could build a golem out of all the hair/​I have ever removed from my body. The neck/​young locks. Round pubic bursts of eyes.” Through­out, pierc­ing insights and epis­te­mo­log­i­cal ques­tions are cou­pled with a will­ing­ness to for­go easy answers. Yid­dish curs­es and bib­li­cal ref­er­ences are deft­ly woven into much of the col­lec­tion, mak­ing it rich with liv­ing history.