A Review of Sarah Rosenthal's Lizard

Recently, one of my favorite poet's we've published sent us a copy of her book of poems out from Chax Press. I wanted to honor it with a review because Sarah Rosenthal is a fantastic poet. She has done something very unusual and rare. As you know, I have a particular way of approaching writing poetry reviews. I prefer to stick to providing excerpts with very little of my own interpretation due to the inherently personal nature of reading a poem. With that said, I will include a few of my favorite excerpts from Rosenthal's Lizard as well as just a very few words on why I find her work inspiring and successful in terms of communicating with that inner being/voice I mentioned before

Reading Lizard reminds me of prayer or what I always thought prayer could be were it not steeped in the baseness of suburban American Christianity. The witness describes to the reader the being and beauty of the witnessed, in this case, Lizard. The witness is us, of course, because we are choosing to step into those eyes as soon as we open the book and begin reading. Therefore, we are also choosing to witness Lizard. We are also choosing to worship Lizard because the witness definitely worships Lizard. I mean worship in the sense that what Lizard does, how Lizard is, is much more important than what the witness does or how the witness is. That is, when you witness Lizard, you lose yourself. In the commencement speech This is Water, given by David Foster to the graduating class of Kenyon College some years ago, he reiterates over and over that we have the power to choose what we worship. We can worship beauty or youth or money or success or Allah or God or this or that, and the problem with that is that when you worship any of those things, you will always lose because none of those things are permanent; they all slip away. In each moment of our lives, we can choose to worship our own egos, what we think is going on, what we like, what we dislike, we can believe that our opinion or definition of what is happening is the only possible truth. He goes on to elaborate by describing how when we are immersed in the "grind" of day to day life, and we are angry because someone cut us off on the freeway, we can choose to worship ourselves and think that person is an asshole OR we can choose to forget ourselves and consider that person's existence as higher and how maybe there's a number of reasons why that person needed to do what they did, that maybe we are not the center of the universe. I bring this up to emphasize how Lizard offers us the opportunity to worship something other than ourselves.

This is a revelatory act worthy of notice.

Not everyone will choose to worship, but those who do will be shown the sumptuousness of Lizard, the complexities of a being not you, the exploratory wildness of pulling-back-the-palm-fronds, peering through the undergrowth and basking in the feeling of forgetting your self. 

[...] Whatever

she attends to she

becomes- a word

on the page till

the book is lost,

a shape in the

clouds till the

hurricane. She

blends into bark

while arsonists

brood, subject

of talk till dessert

is served


the lights go out.

You pitch in the dark.

You dream and wake

and think of Lizard.


When her tongue

whips prey, your

own heart clenches


Lizard's a slapstick

actor. Her timing's

no timing, her

grace is no grace.

She's cutest when

she doesn't know

her name. So how

are, vertiginous,

you've been waiting

for a lizard to topple

you, now it happens,

now go build a frame

for the raw moment


[...] L lives nearby

outside wild. I'm

lazy watching,

knowing little. She

can't not stand my

presence. Her sudden

form defines the zero

point I so adore


She flies, functionally

speaking. Ribs

arcing she sails

unerring to the next



Sarah Rosenthal @ Chax Press

Sarah Rosenthal is one of my favorite poets we've published so far; I love the way she combines words and images to reveal something greater than the sum of those parts (something you almost can't quite put your finger on because it's ephemeral and of a realm where language does not rule). I was super excited to hear from her the other day that she has a new book of poems out this year published by Chax Press. You can buy a copy of Lizard here! As a refresher, here is a poem we included in the 6th Issue (2012):


The secret wants

to be told. Why

doesn’t she have the

secret man in the third

row tell, he squeals,

hand up—pick me.

By all means says L.

But he just reveals his cover,

and just to the

secret listeners.

They listen politely,

praying he doesn’t

dominate the evening

in which their

secret hearts pound


And this one from the 7th Issue (2013):


Does not levitate.

Lifts herself in

sections. Dreams

of prodigious

multiples. Sits in

the Lost and Found.

Fills out a form and

takes herself home