Sundress Reads: Review of Special Delivery

Natasha Sajé’s collection, Special Delivery (Diode Editions, 2021), is a crisp and gently raw investigation, with glistening moments that venture into both the tangible and intangible. Through pointed letters, questions, and deep-dives into the personal realities of the poet’s life, Sajé creates a space for digging, investigating, looking to understand—while seemingly accepting that there will be no answers at all. There appears to be no clear end to these quandaries, and we navigate the entire book through the progression of artful questioning. In poems like “Letter to Caitlyn Jenner” and “Letter to Mike Pence” Sajé provides a pointed and definite direction, a specific target for inquiry, and because of these mile-markers, we never get lost. If anything, we are emboldened by the prose and inspired to ask more of everyone and everything in our own lives. 

The expressive beauty of Special Delivery’s expedition into humanity, gender, and politics is anchored by a sense of place so definite, that even in its transmutations, it remains the sturdy platform in which we are encouraged to jump from. The most direct establishment of place comes from the quaternary poem, “Dear Utah,” which serves as both an ode and a critique of the poet’s home state. The critique comes first. “You are the place where I moved for work / and the place I’ve complained about / for one-third of my life, / the locus I’m trapped in.” Like all the poems in Special Delivery, Sagé balances a lyrical cadence with gritty truth. Acknowledging, without sugar-coating any aspect, the facts of the matter. In this case, it’s the relationship between herself and Utah that was not so much chosen as it was accepted. Gracefully, she details the dissonance that has grown from this; the choice but not a choice. This unique entrapment is perfectly pronounced as “the locus,” yet the language is plain enough to trust its frankness. It’s a fine line walked and emphasized further in her discreet celebrations. “You are also the state where I am never / lost: your mountains close—gray rock in summer, whiter in winter, green in May before drought— / tell me where and when I am.” Ah, dichotomy. There is a reverence here, a sacrality. In recognizing the beauty of Utah whilst juxtaposing its fallibility, a texture is created both tonally and physically. Trust is garnered for the author, respect for the place. 

I challenge any reader not to get pulled into Sajé’s voice, an established and observational commentator. It’s rare to see a digression into gender possibility began as organically as in “Dear Caitlyn Jenner,” where the poet’s own gender presentation becomes as present as her subject’s. “It’s quite a dream to have a body that / doesn’t get in the way of who we are,” she writes. It’s a line with an authentic ease that doesn’t intend to hide the underlying storm that sentiment contains. We yearn for answers to the questions it subconsciously poses: Why is it so hard to have one of those bodies? Who has one? Can I? And patiently, she begins a stream of consciousness set of answering while not-answering. “My method is blending in,” she adds, and “I’d choose a boy’s narrow pelvis.” How excruciating to detail want for a body attached to a gender you do not yet own, a gender synonymous with, as she says, “youth and power.” And while these theoretical and genderqueer divulgences are serious, and frequently tense, there is a lack of urgency that provides the reader enough room to process without the anxious pressure that seeks the quick solution over the thoughtful one. I marvel at the ability to command tone, and I revel in the pockets Sajé creates for us. 

Moments of splendor, admiration almost, surprise us within the undulating folds of prose. Perhaps that’s just the effect of profound imagery—wonder—but in any case, it continually reaffirms the poet’s place and the geography around them. Take, for example, “Dear Island,”— “stepping onto a gray weathered / / dock from a wobbly metal boat— / the green shore speckled with white cottages, / / my sneakers on rocks above / killifish.” The descriptions here are vivid and enthralling, this unabridged account of the scenery becomes almost like worldbuilding to the reader, it’s captivating and brilliant. It’s what we come to expect. 

Traversing through Special Delivery is a deeply methodical process that meets reward on every page. It’s a reading that is ripe and ready for epiphanies yet simultaneously dictated by an authorial voice that rebukes rushing into. In these poems, we borrow Sajé’s patience in her seeking, her acceptance, and her curiosity. Through not being pressured to find anything, we find everything. 

Special Delivery is available at Diode Editions

Finnegan Angelos is a self-proclaimed east-coast-love-struck-queer-awakening poet and essayist originally from northern Baltimore County, Maryland. His work has been published in the Beyond Queer Words AnthologyThistle Magazine, and FRANCES, and has work forthcoming in EPOCH. He loves his dog, hibiscus tea, and the banjo.


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