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Funny and frightening, moving and unsettling, the prose poems in Mark’s debut collection take readers on a wild ride The Babies, by Sabrina Orah Mark, is the premier winner of the Saturnalia Books Poetry Contest, judged by renowned poet Jane Miller (Memory at These Speeds: New and Selected Poetry). Of The Babies, poet Claudia Rankine writes, “Rarely do we encounter poems th Funny and frightening, moving and unsettling, the prose poems in Mark’s debut collection take readers on a wild ride The Babies, by Sabrina Orah Mark, is the premier winner of the Saturnalia Books Poetry Contest, judged by renowned poet Jane Miller (Memory at These Speeds: New and Selected Poetry). Of The Babies, poet Claudia Rankine writes, “Rarely do we encounter poems that are so precisely framed, though on their surface seemingly whimsical and erratic. These poems are gorgeous, intelligent, and disturbing.”


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Funny and frightening, moving and unsettling, the prose poems in Mark’s debut collection take readers on a wild ride The Babies, by Sabrina Orah Mark, is the premier winner of the Saturnalia Books Poetry Contest, judged by renowned poet Jane Miller (Memory at These Speeds: New and Selected Poetry). Of The Babies, poet Claudia Rankine writes, “Rarely do we encounter poems th Funny and frightening, moving and unsettling, the prose poems in Mark’s debut collection take readers on a wild ride The Babies, by Sabrina Orah Mark, is the premier winner of the Saturnalia Books Poetry Contest, judged by renowned poet Jane Miller (Memory at These Speeds: New and Selected Poetry). Of The Babies, poet Claudia Rankine writes, “Rarely do we encounter poems that are so precisely framed, though on their surface seemingly whimsical and erratic. These poems are gorgeous, intelligent, and disturbing.”

30 review for The Babies

  1. 5 out of 5

    Todd

    A perfect example of someone who "makes" instead of "describes," Sabrina Mark's first collection (published by Saturnalia... it's a damn purty-lookin' book too) is probably my favorite book of prose poems EVAH. Weird, intriguing, mysteriously and lovely, seemingly able to work against itself and with itself, the mythology in Mark's book churns and rediscovers... a house with many doors. A perfect example of someone who "makes" instead of "describes," Sabrina Mark's first collection (published by Saturnalia... it's a damn purty-lookin' book too) is probably my favorite book of prose poems EVAH. Weird, intriguing, mysteriously and lovely, seemingly able to work against itself and with itself, the mythology in Mark's book churns and rediscovers... a house with many doors.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Juliet

    Odd, evocative, unsettling and strangely sensual.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Mackenzie

    While much contemporary experimental poetry can be daunting or uninviting to the reader, Sabrina Orah Mark’s first collection, The Babies, preserves its experimentalism while avoiding pretension or obscurity. Much like a ride at a carnival, this book is both scary and fun at the same time while giving the illusion that at any moment, it could completely come undone. Mark manages to remain linguistically innovative while also devastating her reader with surreal imagery at every turn. Losing a limb While much contemporary experimental poetry can be daunting or uninviting to the reader, Sabrina Orah Mark’s first collection, The Babies, preserves its experimentalism while avoiding pretension or obscurity. Much like a ride at a carnival, this book is both scary and fun at the same time while giving the illusion that at any moment, it could completely come undone. Mark manages to remain linguistically innovative while also devastating her reader with surreal imagery at every turn. Losing a limb seems within the realm of possibility as we enter the surreal landscape of The Babies; we are quickly immersed in a grotesquely cartoon-like world of dismembered bodies and disembodied corpses. For Mark, the body is something immediately inhabitable by the outside world, and much like the history created in these poems, it is a malleable and impressionable entity. In the first poem of Section 1, “Amen,” the body is present as a gamble and a form: “’Heads or tails,’ they’d ask. ‘As a friend, I’d recommend the head.’” As if the speaker is not in on the “joke,” she takes the question of the body quite literally and seriously. Likewise, nothing in this book is to be taken at face value, especially in the context of history: “One day, they kneeled inside me and called me a Jew. At first I rejected their offer, but they were right and offered me a lady’s hat. I did not fear them until I wanted to be afraid. The lake was guarded and the road to the town was closed.” Mark gives us a historical context which frames the rest of the book. With this gesture, we are also given a clue to the identity of the speaker, who floats between worlds like a shade. She is marked, both literally and figuratively (labeled by the invasion and occupation of her own body) as the Other. This gesture opens the complexity of the poems to another level; most images (the red dress, the mustache, the wig) take on a new importance within this frame. This book would not be nearly as devastating or accomplished without this naming as a foreground to the rest of the book. Mark has chosen the perfect form for her content in the prose poem. Following poets like Cole Swensen, Abagail Child, Susan Howe and Lyn Hejinian in writing a complete collection of prose poems which ultimately link together, Mark’s narrative presents itself as narrative and is vested in its ability to tell a story, albeit a fragmented and incomplete account. Though the narrative is non-linear, the prose form gives the illusion that what appears on the page is a “story.” Narrative elements like time markers (“Tonight I unwrap the accordion. . .” or “Late one night I enter the laboratory's.”) and identified characters (Mrs. Greenaway, Bewilder, Walter B., Mama, Eugene, Old Gerta, Asa, the babies) sprinkled throughout seem to bring us along on the speaker’s journey, though because the journey is so bizarre and grotesque, we soon realize that we are not being told the “truth.” Often echoing the tone of Theresa Cha’s Dictee, the poem becomes the speaker’s exercise or experiment in understanding. The rhythm of the prose is infectious, the way it turns and tumbles from nonsense to lyric moments of awareness, and is difficult to clear from our minds once we finish reading it. “A Kaddish,” for example, does this well. Narrative elements like character and time stamps draw us in, and though images like the sawdust girl being lifted may not completely make sense, Mark has achieved a moment of devastation and gravity. Everywhere are hints of death, even in their most bizarre form. We cannot escape the gravity of the “shiver, shiva, shhh….” which alludes to a Jewish period of mourning for the dead. The speaker and the reader hear this among the bustle.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Lauren

    I started this book last year, and for whatever reason, just couldn't get into it. i wasn't in the right mindset or mood to receive the poetry. but this time around, something clicked and i feel it's one of the most exciting books of poetry i've read in awhile. you might be thinking, jesus lauren, you say that for every book of poetry you read. but this one is worth your time, i swear. it's creepy, delicate, surprising, full of terror and tenderness. I have a feeling that if i had been in worksh I started this book last year, and for whatever reason, just couldn't get into it. i wasn't in the right mindset or mood to receive the poetry. but this time around, something clicked and i feel it's one of the most exciting books of poetry i've read in awhile. you might be thinking, jesus lauren, you say that for every book of poetry you read. but this one is worth your time, i swear. it's creepy, delicate, surprising, full of terror and tenderness. I have a feeling that if i had been in workshop with the author i would have resented her for how weird and random her poetry seems on the surface. but i would have been wrong.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Pete

    "The experiments lasted through the winter" forever. Two separate people told me to read this inside of a week which doesn't happen that often so I took it as a sign from the universe. These poems operate in their own logic -- book is decidedly experimental, not concerned with the traditional kind of sense, yet still manages to be about something. I confess I didn't get the holocaust subtext for a while (the babies are all the babies never born to the six million dead) and there were places wher "The experiments lasted through the winter" forever. Two separate people told me to read this inside of a week which doesn't happen that often so I took it as a sign from the universe. These poems operate in their own logic -- book is decidedly experimental, not concerned with the traditional kind of sense, yet still manages to be about something. I confess I didn't get the holocaust subtext for a while (the babies are all the babies never born to the six million dead) and there were places where that conceit wanders off for stretches of time. Definitely one of those books that sticks w you even if you wondered if you liked it while reading.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Robert Vaughan

    I'll never completely finish this. Just continually return to it, again and again. I'll never completely finish this. Just continually return to it, again and again.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Gwendolyn Fae

    okay i read this book twice and i love it i love it and it is maybe the best thing i have read in a long while. i want to write an articulate review only not yet not yet i need a minute.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Alissa Hattman

    These poems are dark, unfurling, wondrous objects. Surprising and surreal, with lines like "he brushes the babies' damp gray hair against my neck" and "the gods were quietly touching each other in the last black carriage," THE BABIES tore me open, stuffed me with fox fur and wisteria and a corset throat farewell, then stitched me back together in a redskin dress. These poems are dark, unfurling, wondrous objects. Surprising and surreal, with lines like "he brushes the babies' damp gray hair against my neck" and "the gods were quietly touching each other in the last black carriage," THE BABIES tore me open, stuffed me with fox fur and wisteria and a corset throat farewell, then stitched me back together in a redskin dress.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Patricia Murphy

    This is fun--it’s one of those times when I read a poem in a lit mag and immediately log on to buy the poet’s books. There I was: innocently reading Black Warrior Review, when a poem by Sabrina Orah Mark knocked my socks off. I really enjoyed this collection. It’s inventive, surprising, yet also deeply felt. That’s a difficult combination with surrealism. Some of my favorite moments: “I did not fear them until I wanted to be afraid.” “It is lonely in a place that can burn so fast.” “he left me for This is fun--it’s one of those times when I read a poem in a lit mag and immediately log on to buy the poet’s books. There I was: innocently reading Black Warrior Review, when a poem by Sabrina Orah Mark knocked my socks off. I really enjoyed this collection. It’s inventive, surprising, yet also deeply felt. That’s a difficult combination with surrealism. Some of my favorite moments: “I did not fear them until I wanted to be afraid.” “It is lonely in a place that can burn so fast.” “he left me for a more beautiful robot.” “Wheat the rubble collector out of old rage and oranges.” “I am as among the cat’s red tongue as I’ll ever be.” “Too much architecture, not enough rain..” “In those days, I often felt in advance of feeling.”

  10. 5 out of 5

    Etan

    I've never read a book and not been biased. Have you? Of course I'm biased. Sabrina Orah Mark's marvelous -- and I mean marvelous in both sense of the word -- collection of prose poems in a masterful assimilation of historical specifics into the childlike consciousness of an infinite presence. Rarely do we encounter poems that are so precisely framed, though on their surface seemingly whimsical and erratic. These poems are gorgeous, intelligent, and disturbing. They are owned by the imagination I've never read a book and not been biased. Have you? Of course I'm biased. Sabrina Orah Mark's marvelous -- and I mean marvelous in both sense of the word -- collection of prose poems in a masterful assimilation of historical specifics into the childlike consciousness of an infinite presence. Rarely do we encounter poems that are so precisely framed, though on their surface seemingly whimsical and erratic. These poems are gorgeous, intelligent, and disturbing. They are owned by the imagination that created them and the history that created her. Ok, I didn't write that, but it's good, right? There's a reason that a particularly well-constructed piece of writing is referred to as "poetry." So, this is the greatest book of poetry of all time.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Katie

    S. Orah Mark, along with Mark Wunderlich has also been very influential to my growth as a poet. Her otherworldly views of nature have mixed with my own views of nature in literature and have have tied in that natural or supernatural spirituality with human relationships. She often works in prose, a format that I am quite fond of, but am not sure if I will ever be able to master at her infinitely proficient level.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Richard

    this book is fascinating. A brilliant imagination, brilliant music. I haven't read anything like it before. this book is fascinating. A brilliant imagination, brilliant music. I haven't read anything like it before.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Gary McDowell

    Getting ready to teach this.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Erin

    21/31 (We have been away camping. So I brought 4 books to read around the campfire.) What a delightful and strange little book of poetry. Rather associative, fully of a fairy tale quality, which should not be surprising given that Sabrina Orah Mark writes the column “Happily” for the Paris Review, which focuses on fairy tales and motherhood. #SealeyChallenge #Sabrina Orah Mark From “Thank You” “Thank you for the wedding glove. We split it seven ways. When we looked inside first it was cold second it 21/31 (We have been away camping. So I brought 4 books to read around the campfire.) What a delightful and strange little book of poetry. Rather associative, fully of a fairy tale quality, which should not be surprising given that Sabrina Orah Mark writes the column “Happily” for the Paris Review, which focuses on fairy tales and motherhood. #SealeyChallenge #Sabrina Orah Mark From “Thank You” “Thank you for the wedding glove. We split it seven ways. When we looked inside first it was cold second it sent shivers down our heart. Bones got caught in the fence. Thank you for the way the ribbons went. Bewilder’s all choked up.”

  15. 5 out of 5

    Twila Newey

    I read a piece off Ms. Mark's blog that floored me. Here's the link. https://www.sabrinaorahmark.com/news/ I highly recommend this. So I immediately ordered both of her books of poetry, sight unseen. Sadly, I found her poems less satisfying, more dizzying. Interesting and skilled, certainly, but not my cup of tea as poetry goes. However, it looks like she writes broadly and I will be picking up more of her work because of that initial reaction to her blog post. I read a piece off Ms. Mark's blog that floored me. Here's the link. https://www.sabrinaorahmark.com/news/ I highly recommend this. So I immediately ordered both of her books of poetry, sight unseen. Sadly, I found her poems less satisfying, more dizzying. Interesting and skilled, certainly, but not my cup of tea as poetry goes. However, it looks like she writes broadly and I will be picking up more of her work because of that initial reaction to her blog post.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Patty Enrado

    Fascinating collection of prose poetry. Definitely with a dark streak. Foreboding. At times I felt like it was a different language that I just couldn't access, which was a bit frustrating for me, but I'm glad I read it. Fascinating collection of prose poetry. Definitely with a dark streak. Foreboding. At times I felt like it was a different language that I just couldn't access, which was a bit frustrating for me, but I'm glad I read it.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Katelin Rice

    Beautiful collection of prose poems!

  18. 4 out of 5

    Anastasia Dotzauer

    The Babies changed my life. Sabrina Orah Mark is an incredible inspiration and I wouldn't be the writer I am today without having read her work. The Babies changed my life. Sabrina Orah Mark is an incredible inspiration and I wouldn't be the writer I am today without having read her work.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Perifian

    A little front-loaded for me, personally, but showing a great deal of potential in its Celan-influenced Fanny and Alexander thang

  20. 5 out of 5

    Willow Redd

    This was required reading for one of my poetry classes in college. Not sure we ever actually used it in the class. I find it hard to accurately review poetry. It is a visceral, emotional experience that is unique to the reader, so how can one properly put into words those emotional responses in any proper context to others? One of the key components of good poetry is to spur the imagination, to inspire. And I can definitely say that Sabrina Orah Mark inspires and spurs the imagination with this co This was required reading for one of my poetry classes in college. Not sure we ever actually used it in the class. I find it hard to accurately review poetry. It is a visceral, emotional experience that is unique to the reader, so how can one properly put into words those emotional responses in any proper context to others? One of the key components of good poetry is to spur the imagination, to inspire. And I can definitely say that Sabrina Orah Mark inspires and spurs the imagination with this collection.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    i'm just starting to seriously learn about poetry. i'm having a hard time understanding the separation of the categories "poetry" and "brain barf." this book, i would say, falls in the latter category. still, the product of an interesting brain... if this book were all the pages she had torn out of her journal so that they would not be subjected to criticism, i would be really interested to see what she was working on the rest of the time. echoes of ben marcus (associative patterns) and stacey l i'm just starting to seriously learn about poetry. i'm having a hard time understanding the separation of the categories "poetry" and "brain barf." this book, i would say, falls in the latter category. still, the product of an interesting brain... if this book were all the pages she had torn out of her journal so that they would not be subjected to criticism, i would be really interested to see what she was working on the rest of the time. echoes of ben marcus (associative patterns) and stacey levine (sentence construction.)

  22. 4 out of 5

    Hannah Warren

    These prose poems are precise and grotesque, pulsing and alive. "The milk is mildly foxed. The sky, too, is mildly foxed. And it is wonderful to see the dexterity with which the dark beak hangs on, although it too, is mildly foxed. As are the woods. As is the fox. We are all mildly foxed. Even Mama. Even Mama is mildly foxed." These prose poems are precise and grotesque, pulsing and alive. "The milk is mildly foxed. The sky, too, is mildly foxed. And it is wonderful to see the dexterity with which the dark beak hangs on, although it too, is mildly foxed. As are the woods. As is the fox. We are all mildly foxed. Even Mama. Even Mama is mildly foxed."

  23. 4 out of 5

    Mia

    "The milk is mildly foxed. The sky, too, is mildly foxed. And it is wonderful to see the dexterity with which the dark beak hangs on, although it, too, is mildly foxed. As are the woods. As is the fox. We are all mildly foxed. Even Mama. Even Mama is mildly foxed." "The milk is mildly foxed. The sky, too, is mildly foxed. And it is wonderful to see the dexterity with which the dark beak hangs on, although it, too, is mildly foxed. As are the woods. As is the fox. We are all mildly foxed. Even Mama. Even Mama is mildly foxed."

  24. 4 out of 5

    Jeune Fille

    this is one of my favorite works of poetry. clever, spooky, secretive, sabrina orah mark has perfected it. here is one of the poems in it: http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/... this is one of my favorite works of poetry. clever, spooky, secretive, sabrina orah mark has perfected it. here is one of the poems in it: http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/...

  25. 5 out of 5

    donna

    championing the metaphor

  26. 4 out of 5

    Shaindel

    An excellent prose poetry collection. Will write more when I look at it again; it's been a few years. An excellent prose poetry collection. Will write more when I look at it again; it's been a few years.

  27. 4 out of 5

    h

    i haven't put my finger on why but much of this book read more as prose to me. hmmm i haven't put my finger on why but much of this book read more as prose to me. hmmm

  28. 5 out of 5

    Noah

  29. 4 out of 5

    Anna

  30. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

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