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

Impossible Flowers

The Far Woods

All the World

Poetry by Sarah J. Sloat at EIL

Review of Inksuite by Sarah J. Sloat at EIL

Review of Homebodies by Sarah J. Sloat at EIL

Sarah J. Sloat’s review of The Waste Books at EIL

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