Sarah Kain Gutowski: THE FAMILIAR

THE FAMILIAR: POEMS, Sarah Kain Gutowski. Texas Review Press, Huntsville, TX 77341, 2024, 94 pages, $21.95, paper,

I reviewed this book at Escape Into Life (EIL), but now that the hard copy has arrived I’m dipping into its pages again, still feeling astounded by its chutzpah.

From the cover:

Gutowski’s poems are breathtakingly smart—controlled, precise and exquisite as diamonds—and yet they vibrate dangerously from within, as if anticipating, as she writes in one poem, “so much broken glass.” –Amber Sparks, author of And I Do Not Forgive You

You can visit EIL (see link below) to read more about what I find fascinating about the story-in-poems of one woman’s prism of selves (Ordinary Self and Extraordinary Self are the main characters). Here, one poem in its entirety:

Recurring Catastrophes

My ordinary self is not great at networking.
Her conversation’s void of art and humor, not
because she doesn’t know what to say but rather

her dearth of interest. She won’t respond to emails,
schedule dinner dates, return phone calls—all gestures
other ordinary people make to stay connected

and maintain relationships. My ordinary self runs
a little warm when asked about her lack of friends.
If I become distracted by other people and their

other problems, she once said, how can I focus on ours?
At this point in our life, she is correct—fires keep
erupting at home, and spread to school, to work,

and on the flat, dry road to the grocery. Everywhere, smoke
and heat and the need to escape. My extraordinary self
is never around for these recurring catastrophes

but my ordinary self and I can feel her like the tremor
underfoot when a house folds its charred frame to the ground:
somewhere, she’s smiling, her eyes hot and gray as ash.

—Sarah Kain Gutowski, The Familiar

Gutowski is also the author of Fabulous Beast: Poems, which won the 14th annual National Indies Excellence Award for Poetry. In addition to checking out my review at EIL, you can learn more about the poet at her page at Texas Review Press, and at her personal website.


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