Sarah Vap’s sixth work of poetry, Viability is an ambitious and highly imaginative collection of prose poems that braids together several kinds of language strands in an effort to understand and to ask questions about the bodies (and minds, maybe even souls) that are owned by capitalism. These threads of language include definitions from an online financial dictionary, samples from an essay on the economics of slavery, quotations from an article about slavery in today’s Thai fishing industry, lyric bits and pieces about pregnancy and infants of all kinds, and a wealth of quotations falsely attributed to John of the Cross. The viability that Vap is asking about is primarily economic and biological (but not only). The questions of viability become entwined with the need, across the book, to “increase”—in both a capitalist and a gestational sense. John of the Cross tries, at first with composure, to comment on or to mediate between all the different strands of the collection.

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Selected by

Mary Jo Bang





The splintered log filled me mouth to groin. And growing—
growing, the emerald was blood. The stones in the water were
eyes and I was not recognized by either the givings or the
killings that will make a woman a mother, that will make a
mother a moon dropped to the water and carving out her own
eye. Our family was afraid for itself until we were worn. And
became, at evening’s porcelain quality, like even the dead dog’s
bones, silent and white. The infant and the carriage, frozen
below the firepond—they held themselves, were alone. We
looked down at them through thick ice while they ripped him
from me in the single, performed, loneliness.