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Featured Author: sam sax

“In sam sax’s STRAIGHT the wound and the salve seem to disguise themselves as one another—as the sweet high, as the lovely low, as the addiction to power and the relief of being nothing. sax stripped me to my cells, to my neurological need to be seen and the fear that I am. Bare and bright, these forms resist formulas, these pauses are syntax and synapse, these griefs are the new mouths that sing the snake back in. These poems are the prescription for the animal in us, and for what’s in us that is unshaken by chemistry—for the god in us, or what god put there by wafer, by word, by flesh, by chemical flame.” Traci Brimhall “The poems here in STRAIGHT are like a legion of pickpockets, hustlers after all our secrets, but their collective con is a con done out of a love of the world—all of it. All these ways of insisting we face even what we think we hate. Everything sax and his poems steals from you with this book, you never needed—it was only in the way.” Alexander Chee

sam sax is a queer Jewish writer and educator. He’s received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, Lambda Literary, The MacDowell Colony, the Blue Mountain Center, and the Michener Center for Writers. He’s the winner of the 2016 Iowa Review Award and his poems have appeared in The American Poetry Review, Gulf Coast, Ploughshares, Poetry, and other journals.


An “astounding” (Terrance Hayes) debut collection of poems – Winner of the 2016 National Poetry Series Competition In this ­­­powerful debut collection, sam sax explores and explodes the linkages between desire, addiction, and the history of mental health. These brave, formally dexterous poems examine antiquated diagnoses and procedures from hysteria to lobotomy; offer meditations on risky sex; and take up the poet’s personal and family histories as mental health patients and practitioners. Ultimately, Madness attempts to build a queer lineage out of inherited language and cultural artifacts; these poems trouble the static categories of sanity, heterosexuality, masculinity, normality, and health. sax’s innovative collection embodies the strange and disjunctive workings of the mind as it grapples to make sense of the world around it.

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