Sarah J. Sloat’s Misery
Very Grave/Very Reasonable
These poems belong to a series I began last fall when I participated in ‘The Poeming,’ a project in which poets were assigned a Stephen King book as a source text. Mine was Misery, the story of a gravely injured writer taken prisoner by a psychotic fan. It was good fodder.
I’d written found poetry before, mostly with the resulting poem dusted off and placed on the page like a fresh new thing — citing the source text, of course. With Misery, I decided to locate each poem on a single, separate page. I also decided to preserve each poem on its page, which I would embellish somehow visually.
I did black-outs and white-outs. I used correction tape, colored pencils, and confetti. I cut pictures from magazines. I plundered a book of old maps I found in a bargain bin. I hoarded printed images that looked useful wherever I found them. The poem “Very Grave/Very Reasonable,” for example, uses a paper bag from the soap store Lush as a backdrop. A number of the poems are stitched. I pasted each finished poem to a blank page from a sketch book, or to the inside cover of a “repurposed” hardbound book.
Misery is set in Colorado. It’s not highbrow writing, which was a plus. Starting with a book that’s gorgeously written to me almost feels like cheating. The setting features plentiful snow. The main props are pills and a typewriter. There’s a crazy woman who used to be a nurse, and a man in serious pain. My poems stand back from the story, but of course the themes and props and their vocabulary come through.
I didn’t find a poem on every page. Not every poem found was a success. Sometimes the collage was lame. Sometimes the visual outshone the poem. Occasionally I felt stymied by my chosen ‘form.’ But it was a thrill to marry word and image. More than 30 Misery poems have landed at publications like Thrush, Sixth Finch, and Permafrost. I’m hoping, too, that the chapbook manuscript finds a home.
–Sarah J. Sloat
The Far Woods
All the World