Nina Bennett reviews Hayden Saunier's How to Wear this Body
How to Wear This Body
Terrapin Books, 2017
The striking cover of Hayden Saunier’s collection, How to Wear This Body, captured my immediate attention. A coat adorned with antlers, a bird’s nest, feathers, ferns, and twigs suggests the inseparable connections between humans and nature. Saunier’s work has been widely published, and has won numerous awards, including the Pablo Neruda Prize and the Rattle Poetry Prize, as well as several Pushcart nominations. Her images and metaphors are unique and strong.
Saunier is quiet and thoughtful, as well as sassy. This collection contains many excellent examples of Saunier’s dry poetic wit. She has the ability to take an ordinary moment and run with it, in what feels like a conversation with a friend. I can easily imagine sitting with her in a bar and laughing while shooting these thoughts back and forth. In “Possibilities for Roadside Theatre,” she shows the reader a “rump-sprung sofa” sitting by the side of the road. The poem then goes on to describe other scenes of discarded objects, and the speaker wonders “what to make of this.” “Changes to Your Itinerary May Affect Your Fate” is a 2 ½ page riff of couplets resulting from a misread word. The train ticket actually read “fare.” “How To Move In” gives directions:
Bring in the bed first.
Then the books.
Then wait as long as possible before doing anything else.
There are poems to and about deceased family and friends. One of my favorites is the poignant “How It Is with My Father.” In a poem chock full of imagery of a sailor, the speaker is sitting by the bed of her dying father, “watching/his hands worry the sheets,” and wondering “if his hands hold the bitter end/or the working end of the line.”
Many poetry collections make me want to search out other work by the poet, but How to Wear This Body goes further; I want to search out Saunier and spend time talking with her.
Nina Bennett is a healthcare professional with a subspecialty in bereavement issues and secondary traumatic stress. Her chapbook, Sound Effects, was published in 2013 by Broadkill Press as part of their Key Poetry Series. Nina's poem "Deja Vu" took third place in the Out & About magazine poetry contest, and her poem "They Do" was nominated for 2012 Best of the Net. Her articles and poetry have appeared in numerous print and online journals and anthologies. Nina is a contributing author to the Open to Hope Foundation.