Devil’s Lake


Sara Deniz Akant: Babette

“the hostess finally / she came out brillant / in clatter things / can happen”

Sara Deniz Akant’s Babette, selected by Maggie Nelson for Rescue Press’ Black Box Poetry Prize, expects readers to be part of the creation in the way Toni Morrison implicates readers in the events of novels. No poem ends with a ribbon, or couplet explaining the poems’ project to the reader in case the latter needed explaining. It’s a refreshing challenge amidst the fracturing of time, form, order, and line. It is a daring collection in which the author attempts and succeeds often at destabilizing many traditional and ubiquitous traits of modern poetry.

Akant expects her readers to work and the book follows an edict I overheard recently, Babette treats readers as though they are all poets and playwrights. These poems will not slow down for you to stick with any line too long in a wonderfully dizzying experiment of language and page. Babette indeed will surprise at every turn and is anything but predictable, promising to “make no pattern / known again.” Though the collection feels as though everything is breaking or being reinvented, Akant certainly does not break that promise.

I’m certainly new to the abstract, the elliptical, the structural subversion and sophistication showcased in Babette. There is a presence in Sara’s work of the brave, shameless, and ugliness that’s so attractive. But if there is one absolutely necessary mission in art it is to move towards discomfort. The abstract may be intimidating because it demands the reader to take leaps themselves. Perhaps the fear is the leaps will prove me an impostor. Or perhaps not following a “Ghost in the glare” is the true sign of an impostor.

Either way Sara Deniz Akant will have audiences thinking and rethinking some of the very fundamental beliefs about poetry that the reader may have. Like a Chaplin’s Modern Times or a David Lynch film, Babette is a study of machines under a microscope. And you’d be missing out not to follow the fire, the switchback turns illuminating the inanimate, the haunting presence of what is unknown.

Sara Deniz Akant
Rescue Press, 2015