Chapbook Review: Domestica

Chapbook, Sarah Swan, 24 pgs, above/ground press,, $4

Domestica is a title that manages to conjure elegance and tedium at the same time, and that dichotomy is mirrored in Sarah Swan’s verse. In subsequent breaths, she compares her children’s “clear and clean” faces to icebergs in a Lawren Harris painting, then finds herself swept up by a wave of monotony as she pulls them down the sidewalk in a wagon, “grey square after grey square / after / solemn / grey / square.”

This collection is only half homebody musings; the riskiest — and most rewarding — section of Domestica is a numbered series of poems, all titled “Childhood.” Each does little more than list items, scenes or events that are presumably all from Swan’s youth. It’s a recipe for idiosyncrasy, but that line is never crossed; Swan’s choices for the lists consistently breed familiarity, at least for this reader: “The squat green / rotary telephone. // Porridge and / molasses. // Burrs / stuck / on my / sweater.”

If you’re looking for uncomplicated, mater-of-fact poetry, this one’s a safe bet. There’s nothing veiled, here — what you see is what you get — but Swan doesn’t sacrifice subtlety or nuance. (Scott Bryson)