Do-It-Yourself Paper Airplanes by Sarah Sadie


Do-It-Yourself Paper Airplanes by Sarah Sadie. Five Oaks Press, 2015

Reviewed by John Olski

Of course paper airplanes are do-it-yourself projects, but what if poems were too — not the province of a few recluses laboring over drafts, but the expected folding of one’s daily observations and desires into little vehicles of expression launched into the world?

Sarah Sadie’s Do-It-Yourself Paper Airplanes encourages non-writers to identify with the voice of a middle-aged, Midwestern parent and poet because she, too, examines her life and seeks to make something tangible of its wisdom.

“I know,” intones the narrator of For Your Birthday I Got You the Human Condition, “I know how we seek to collect/something, anything, even ourselves amid/the chaos of days, radiation of stars, stones, fallout.”

Sadie’s twenty-two-poem chapbook cultivates insight through keen observation of the everyday world. When Sadie makes surrealistic leaps, as in stealing a cow’s heart from a science fair in At Crestwood Elementary’s Explore Science Night, the extraordinary turn serves to spin readers back around, to face the ordinary anew.

The World Tree Grows at Westgate Mall springs from a mother’s waiting for her son in a parking lot. Its observation of a tree branch reflected in a puddle shows us how: … the small segment/caught in water and mirrored in every twig/becomes something else again, as dusk deepens,/becomes possibility.

That image resonates with the facing poem, Confessions of Johnny Appleseed: I began to prune trees when I realized/none of us is solid. Then I knew/the patterns of shift and dapple I perceived/were my own.

Both poems echo the collection’s opener, I Discover Myself in the Page Before Me: Turns out I’m palimpsest/of trees, not blank but brimming:/the still pool, the sound of wind in leaves,/and drawing the pencil’s point like a dowsing stick.

Sarah Sadie finds revelation travel in the poem Neil Gaiman Said to Write About Someone Trying to Get Home, or in housework with the poem When French Horns Come On the Radio, or in the efforts of a woman to pursue a poetry career in Worth: “Easy as pie. Piece of cake. Said no one who ever baked.”

At points along the way, Sadie’s poems reference gods, sermons, benediction, psalm and prayer. Her poems become less about making the valued turn or leap of insight that poets strive for, and more about expressing that striving itself, giving voice to the human desire to pull a gem from the air of experience, as in Facing the Sculpture When the Sculptor Is Away: Look, the full moon/is paper airplanes tonight, I swear it,/soaking this place in a dazed light, shimmering / as my hand moves across the keys like a whisper, closer/than you thought, this page that folds, this poem that folds the air.

Such beautiful writing poised on the cusp of ordinary experience invites readers to see poetry and life as one-and-the-same. We don’t need an instruction manual to make paper airplanes, though maybe we benefit from a few models in the way that Sarah Sadie’s poems encourage us to fold our own lives’ poetry out of the details around us.

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