Sara King,
I Stole a Rock: Poems of Love & Romance
(iUniverse, 2003)

Sara King's work is easy on the eyes. Nothing pretentious, nothing complex. The stories told are told in plain language, with just enough imagery peppering the work to keep it from being representative of a "real" conversation, but tracing a conversation you wish you knew someone smart enough or infatuated with you enough to have. There's plenty of good fun here; the poem "Why I Write Poetry" leaps to mind, with its laundry list of witticisms here and there masquerading as reasons:

I am too lazy to write longer fiction.
It keeps me from watching Star Trek reruns.
Because my kids think it's stupid.

And there are plenty of great moments, which is her strength: capturing the errant situation that we can all relate to that doesn't seem like it's been done a million times before. She's got a great contemporary eye, somewhere between the weary orb of a broke traveler and the vigilant vision of a paid housekeeper in an expensive home on her first day. She doesn't miss much on the subject at hand.

Some of the simplicity of her voice backfires on the work; there are lines that are so simple that you know someone else -- or a hundred someone else's -- have written before: things "blowing like tumbleweeds," "veils of lies," that sort of thing. There's also a poem or two that mar with their obviousness the bumpy texture of the book. "Marry Me, Ricardo" and "Pincushion" are just too light in the rear to make a dent.

There is also a rare moment or two of wordplay for wordplay's sake that doesn't ring true in light of the quality of the rest of her work:

The curve of hips,
or wet of lips
must hide in veils of lies.
Don't let me see
what's in your eyes.

This type of distraction is particularly distressing to observe for someone of King's voice and clear eye.

In the end, of the 39 poems that make up I Stole a Rock, more than two-thirds of them give you some great material. Not classic stuff, but good contemporary photography, so to speak. Her poem "Pears" is both tragic and liberating, and showcases King's knack for naming the pains:

Mom tore through my room like a pitbull,
looking for answers or prayers.
She found I kept a journal,
and church had not stopped Brian
from laying me down under pear trees.

Her book is filled with this type of personality and makes for a solid, tight read from a voice not afraid to pick at her sores a little.

- Rambles
written by Scott Woods
published 27 December 2003

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