Lyric Reviews EAVESdrop by Sarah Riggs

Before the word “eavesdrop” meant someone who listens from under the eaves, the word referred to the drip of water from the overhang of a roof of a dwelling structure. Riggs begins her book of poems, EAVESDROP, with a nod to this original meaning: “The sky / falls furiously and softly / a window with a ledge with eyes looking through it.” From there, Riggs’s poems constellate into cooperative acts of art including dance, translation, drawing, and citation.

Sarah Riggs’s many published works all share in common the quality of being quietly, buzzingly alive with intimate detail. Her lines get to the heart of a flower, of an animal, of the human soul. EAVESDROP has the air of teetering on the brink of world-wide shift, of calls to action answered, and of the act of listening. The poems of EAVESDROP, at times percussive and at others melodic, are infused with the feeling that comes at the sound of voices joined in many and varied prayer, the kind of feeling that fills the chest to bursting with crescendo.

This many-ness is purposeful. Folded into the poems of EAVESDROP is writing that speaks to Riggs’s larger work of engaging poets in conversation around intersectional environmental activism through her organization Tamaas, via a new project called Earth Arts Justice. Poems from the “Can We Transform” cycle address these invitations directly to the reader. 

Subverting the widely-known connotation of secrecy and deception of the word “eavesdrop,” the spirit of EAVESDROP is collaborative. Riggs has built her poems in cooperation with dancers in Brooklyn, the ancient poet and Sufi saint Rabi’à al Adawiyya, and with dozens of writers and translators who think in, around, and through many languages. There’s an air of notation, of echo, of meditation, and relation through exchange. In shifting between lyrical dance and direct language, Riggs gives us EAVESDROP as a solemn recognition of the poet’s role and how it threads into the wider world of ecosystems and systemic violence, of activisms and ignorance. In other words, one of the most important aspects of the poet’s role is to listen with care, which is a critical part of the action of eavesdropping. To live a life in multiple languages, throughout a life of different kinds of translation, trains the ear to listen, and this is an inherently collaborative act.


Eavesdrop By Sarah Riggs Cover Image
ISBN: 9781946104236
Availability: Unlikely to Be Available
Published: Chax Press - May 1st, 2020

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