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About this poet

sam sax is the author of Madness (Penguin Books, 2017), winner of the National Poetry Series, and Bury It (Wesleyan University Press, 2018), which received the 2017 James Laughlin Award.

Of his work, James Laughlin Award judge Tyehimba Jess writes, "Bury It, sam sax’s urgent, thriving excavation of desire, is lit with imagery and purpose that surprises and jolts at every turn. Exuberant, wild, tightly knotted mesmerisms of discovery inhabit each poem in this seethe of hunger and sacred toll of toil. A vitalizing and necessary book of poems that dig hard and lift luminously."

sax has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, Lambda Literary, The MacDowell Colony, and Stanford University, among others. He currently serves as the poetry editor at BOAAT Press.

Poem in Which the Writer Sees Himself in an Old Textbook, 1943

They cut off our hair
& there we were
Hairless.
 
A photograph
In a history i skimmed
So quick
I missed
 
We were there
Less than elsewhere
Our hair cut
So close the scalp
Gleamed
 
A row of six
Pixelated moons
 
Blood rose
To its feet
 
Our hair not ours
Once separated
Like a finger
Nail
 
The gold
From our teeth
 
Our hair burned
Made upholstery
Braided for women
Down the street
 
There on the page
The photograph
 
A camp  A cage
 
Right angles
Impossible
Sharp as a fade
Razors in drag
Black boots & blades
 
I pull the image up
On my screen
Thumb the six
Bare heads
Sex organs
My face
My face
 
I’m alive of course
Because others died
& i’ll be survived
By no one
 
[amen] [amen] [amen]
 
My gift
To this planet
Extinction
The singed end
Of a family line
 
Today a man sits
Beside me
At the piano & plays
A song
 
My name’s in it
The one about a man
Rendered powerless
By the woman
Who takes his hair

Even here
With his breath
A flatiron
I’m standing
Between twin pillars
 
My arms cargo
Hardly mine
 
When he’s done
I take him
To bed & empty
My family
Into his darkness
Apologizing
 
[I’m sorry]
Again & again [i’m sorry] [i’m sorry]
 
Though i can’t quite say
Why

 

Copyright © 2017 sam sax. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in Tin House, Fall 2017.

Copyright © 2017 sam sax. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in Tin House, Fall 2017.

sam sax

sam sax

Sub_prize_or_program - Bury Itsam sax is the author of Madness, winner of the National Poetry Series and forthcoming in 2017 from Penguin Books.

by this poet

poem

the time for nuance is over
i argue over breakfast
explaining how it’s oft used
to confuse dissent—knife
through my poached egg.
politicized work made all yolky,
easy to consume & forget.
i dab with the toasted bread
agitation & propaganda i rant

2
poem

everyone knows about the woman who fell in love with the bridge
but no one cares how the bridge felt after.

everyone knows about the poet who leapt from the deck of a ship
but not how the boat lifted & bloated in his wake like a white infant
spread over the

poem

i never wanted to grow up to be anything horrible
as a man.  my biggest fear  was the hair  they said
would    snake    from  my   chest,   swamp    trees
breathing  as  i  ran.  i prayed for a  different  kind
of  puberty:  skin  transforming  into  floor boards
muscles  into  cobwebs,