Ira Sadoff’s new volume of poems opens with a quotation from Rilke: “But because truly being here is so much; because everything here / apparently needs us, the fleeting world, which in some strange way / keeps calling us. . . .” The poetry collected here is a response to this call.
Rooted firmly in the “fleeting world,” Sadoff’s poems find epiphanies of meaning in unexpected and even unpleasant experiences and emotions. The poems in Barter delve deeply into the past, the personal past of regret, travel, love, divorce, and bereavement, as well as the global past of Beethoven, Vietnam, and the fall of communism. Each poem is offered up by Sadoff as a barter, something to be traded for a little more time, a little more understanding.
The poems in Barter comment on the power of culture to interject itself into our desire for an idealized self, the way our inner and outer lives lack correspondence, harmony, and integration. They also talk about commerce, the trading of bodies, the way we as a nation “use” and exchange and appropriate -- and like Tolstoy’s Ivan Ilyich, try to bargain with and evade the urgency of our time on earth.
In the poem “Self-Portrait with a Critic,” Sadoff makes what could be a succinct statement of purpose: “And inside, let’s not make it pretty, / let’s save the off-rhyme and onomatopoeia / / for the concert hall, let’s go to the wormy place / where the problematic stirs inside his head.”