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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.

Politics of Elegy

like anyone i can make a list of the dead

i can make them my dead by making the list

i can write my name then name names below it 

i can craft & obfuscate & collapse

i can publish it

i can ask ‘who of us is left to tell their story?’

this land of plentitude & pens     

this land is my land, the song says, this land is mine

how long have humans buried each other in the earth

how long have we sung names into their absence

how long have we been paid for that singing

every architect expects people to inhabit their buildings

every poet pretends their poems to outlive them

every piece of furniture in my room is shaking its head

what’s the difference between weeping alone & on camera

what’s the gulf between an epitaph & an epic 

what’s a eulogy but a coin rising in the throat

eulogy from the greek means praise

praise from the latin means price

every public dirge is burning capital

every shirtless picture of him i keep is a small virgil 

every hell i’ve traveled through is an expensive bird in my mouth

i was paid a thousand dollars for writing a poem about a dead man who hated me

i was paid & each dollar is a ghost haunting my wallet

i was paid & i am trading his body for bags of food

i am never more dangerous than inside

the arms of a man

who will die

before me

Copyright © 2016 by sam sax. “Politics of Elegy” originally appeared in The Cortland Review. Reprinted with permission of the author.

Copyright © 2016 by sam sax. “Politics of Elegy” originally appeared in The Cortland Review. Reprinted with permission of the author.

sam sax

sam sax

sam sax is the author of Madness, winner of the National Poetry Series and forthcoming in 2017 from Penguin Books.

by this poet

poem
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
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

and again the test comes back negative for waterborne parasites
for gonorrhea of the throat and of elsewhere       for white blood cells in the stool

this isn’t always true       sometimes it’s a phone call from your lover