canadian ~ twenty-first century literature since 1999

The Work of Days
by Sarah Lang
Coach House Books, 2007

reviewed by rob mclennan

Sarah Lang was born on a Saturday the winter of 1980, in Northwestern Canada. In the spring of 2004, she completed her MFA at Brown University. She began work on her PhD in Chicago in the fall of 2005. Her work, which includes poetry, prose, personal, critical and medical essays, has been published in Canada, Great Britian, and the United States. She has translated work from Latin, Ancient Greek, French, Ukrainian, Japanese, and Mandarin. The Work of Days is her first book. She now lives in, and writes of, airports. She intends to orbit the earth before her projected death in 2056. 

(From her publisher’s website)

Sarah Lang launches The Work of Days at the Coach House fall launch Wednesday, October 24. 2007, Stones Place, 1255 Queen Street West 

It is 4 a.m. It is early morning. It is summer and so it is
already light. And it is warm. You have everything. (part one)
Former Edmonton resident (now two years into her PhD in Chicago) Sarah Lang’s first poetry collection is a single poem, a long poem in three parts. Built as an extension of moments, the poem is less an accumulation than it is a single moment stretched, explored and endlessly pulled apart. And, using spare language and the page itself, The Work of Days is a poem carved and crafted with as much blank space in her poem as text. As the copy on the back cover writes, it uses the phrase “pure light” and the word “refracts.” This is poetry of mounting and surmounting light.
This that outpouring of colour.
This that body broken.
This that stretched.
This that phosphorescence.
This that even now.
This that lie.
This that smooth floor.
This that crude pleasure.

Your arm around a white, plastic chair. (part one)
What kind of portrait does Sarah Lang paint?

Listen to this refrain that sits at the end of part one:
The process of not having remembered differs greatly from that
of forgetting: there is no record to misplace. Of light or of light

filtered. What is necessity. Today a slow sequence. A pale cheek
to pale tide. Today green. White. White. White. Green. In slips,
lists. By rote. Today I slept. A movie slips. What is real, what is

hallucinated. The motion of a line opening. What I must look like. Today
I took it easy, which doesn’t mean there is nothing to be done.
What I admire about this book is the smallness, the closeness, the precision. Constructed far more by scalpel than out of bare bone, Lang’s poem cuts down beyond the heart of the matter and into the essence itself of the heart. This is an enviable poetry, an enviable poem.
We have no curtains. On the twenty-seventh floor,
I roll my knuckles along your jaw. I was once
inelegant. You knew what you taught. A red vase
with modern arrangement. The view. Desipramine,
lithium carbonate. I don’t know if I’m polite. I have lost
perspective. The labels are scratched off; your eyes
are closed. I’m sure there are trees. That there is wind.
Unofficially, rob mclennan is the founding father of CanLit google. He is currently at large in Alberta and is the author of subverting the lyric.





TDR is produced in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. 

All content is copyright of the person who created it and cannot be copied, printed, or downloaded without the consent of that person. 

See the masthead for editorial information. 

All views expressed are those of the writer only. 

TDR is archived with the Library and Archives Canada

ISSN 1494-6114. 

We acknowledge the support of the Canada Council for the Arts. Nous remercions de son soutien le Conseil des Arts du Canada.