What happens when love is replaced by romance? In Nothing Fatal, Sarah Perrier explores this and other questions about our contemporary understanding of dating, relationships, sex, and marriage. In the opening lines of “Too Darn Hot,” a poem fueled by the same weary ardor as Cole Porter’s song, the speaker asks, “Why sort the doubletalk from the innuendo? / They’re both lyrical.” Rather than sorting the one from the other, the poems of Nothing Fatal delight in the ways that the imperfect and seductive power of language has, for centuries, helped us find new and inventive ways to woo one another. Nothing Fatal also acknowledges that while love is itself a creative act, sometimes the things we create can appear, like Frankenstein’s monster, to be an unexpected mess. Perrier delivers a collection that is at once wise, sly, sexy, and sad. These poems are clearly in favor of love, and yet they also reveal how, through imprecision of language and desire for romantic gestures at once nostalgic and entirely new, we create a kind of comedy from our courting of one another.
Reading Nothing Fatal is like taking time off from your humdrum life. It’s like slipping on a black dress and going out on the town on a sultry summer night. It’s like telling all your best-kept secrets to the night air or a long-lost friend. It’s like sipping glass after glass of the finest French wine. It’s like pages of laughter, music, dance. It’s like erotic jazz. It’s like melodic magic. It’s like illegal bliss. Nothing Fatal is poetry at its best.
Perrier’s sassy, sad, unapologetic voice wins the reader over and reminds us why her materials are among the age-old materials of poetry. Who isn’t ready to give love (and the love poem) another shot when the right voice beckons?
If Sarah Perrier is a sly cross between Dickinson and the next bolt of lightning, then Nothing Fatal is a jolt to the heart divided. These poems reconfigure the currents of our own dazed, often lonely, often vulnerable condition, embodied in first kisses and near misses, sexy French underwear and the myths of love and domestic bliss. It is hard to think of a recent poet whose voice is as acrobatic and coolly electric, whose poems are so darkly lit with irony and blazingly sincere. Sophisticated and sensuous. Full of wit and fully-charged. When one of Perrier’s flirty narrators insists, “I know you so well your body / has scars / I have / yet to cause,” I, for one, am listening.