upon reading ‘the world is mostly sky’


I begin a lot of posts like that. I don’t read much poetry. That will not be a shock. But I shock myself to think I have not read the very books I want to. I could explain how this happens.

So here is my confession:

I’m reading Sarah Ens’ poetry for the first time, beginning with The World is Mostly Sky. What is going on? Why have I never read her work before? I have attended several readings, virtual, during the pandemic, lockdown and whatnot. But in readings, there is withholding. It’s only a taste. Palatable. The surface. It’s for everyone. I want to read what she chooses not to read out loud in the public sphere. The power of holding a poet’s book in your hand.

So anyway, Sarah’s writing. I’m trying to avoid reading what others have said about her writing. I try to avoid reading the back cover. Even the front.

I don’t want to absorb their inputs and regurgitate.

I find myself binging her writing. Is this how she meant for her poetry to be digested?

My intention all along has been to take her second book of poetry, Flyway, and sit at the Tall Grass Prairie preserve, and read it in full, there in place.

This intention rings false.

And anyway, The World is Mostly Sky comes first. I don’t know if I always recommend reading a writer’s work in order of publication… but for me, this makes sense. To delve deep into her work in this way.

What happens when an amateur-everything, a wannabe-writer, writer-of-blogs and not much else, picks up a work of poetry and immerses herself in it?

To me, it’s an experience of dreamy exhilaration.

Her work is soft yet sharp. Fearless yet gentle. Stunning in imagination. Her intellect is fierce. Her words come in waves.

I’m not done reading yet / yes I am.

Ready for my next confession:

I have never been much of a reader of poetry.

I wanted to be. When I was a girl, I tried. It seemed very romantic and dreamy. I liked the poems we were assigned to read in high school English classes. But I never sat down with a book of poetry for the sheer pleasure of becoming immersed in its verses.

Until now.

With Sarah Ens.

I will resist shouting such things as “this woman is going places” et cetera. Because how can I know. I am beyond amateur. Beyond meaning, in this case, not even as good as an amateur. My brain is incredibly new to this and I cannot and will not pretend otherwise.

However. I feel it. She is going places. People need to listen to her. And read her poetry.

Articulating why is the tricky part.

I’ve just binged her first book, I think. Yes, this was a binge. Is it okay to read poetry this quickly? This hungrily? My impulse is to jump to her next, Flyway, and binge it as well. But I want to first sit with the magic that is The World Is Mostly Sky.

I would have read this slim yet heady volume even quicker, but I wanted to reserve my reading of it exclusively for my favourite time of day: early morning. When it is no longer night, but not yet day. When my brain is not very awake, though no longer asleep. When it can bend and stretch and break open with new thoughts and images and ideas. Not set in old ways because that is too much to hang onto before the caffeine does its work and I squint at the sun.

Obviously it’s intimate, and I sometimes feel I should not be reading this. But at the same time, meanings are obscured while being expanded upon and woven with completely different thoughts and images. Which makes it safe to read, yet adventurous.

It’s been billed as prairie poetry but her poems extend beyond. To the catastrophic. Both inside and out. With and without. Quiet hope melds with overwhelming despair at facing a world coming apart. But here we are. And here I sit, with this book.