With a language so surreal and dense, Sarah Etlinger in her collection The Weather Gods translates romantic and loving moments into something breathing. She makes every bit of time spent with a loved one into a living thing that we, the readers, can play with, laugh with, interrogate, converse and have fun with. Something also striking about Sarah’s collection is the subtle philosophy that is prevalent in the poem. In one side of the collection, she is boldly stating her disbelief for the supernatural like “ghosts or God”. In another part, she is wishing she could believe in them. It is in this dilemma that vulnerability is built and accomplished.
Navigating through a dominant thematic preoccupation of love while meandering through subject matters like companionship, the loss of companionship, grief and the inevitable finality of things, Sarah continues to, poem by poem, exude professionalism and mastery. Her superb use of language contributes immensely to the overall beauty of the collection—where we see her make use of devices such as; metaphors and imageries as well as paying attention to structural aesthetics and form.
There’s a linear descension in the tone of the poet as well as her mood. At first, in the beginning, the poet, though uncertain, boasts of love. In her words “I’m not so sure: the gaps are where I love you,/the little ruts in time where/desire wriggles in,/hopeful/as dawn’s first gasp over earth”. Sarah writes with courage. In her collection, one can see the strength she sums up in accepting truths are most times often difficult to accept. For instance, in the poem “We Do Not Yet Know All The Ways’ ‘, we see a persona who acknowledges the elusive nature of love, how partners are most times ignorant of the things that might make or mar them. In her words “Our hearts can break:/how could we know/all the cracks that fault lines,/when the bends and curves/of terrain have not been crossed”.
The lyricism and musicality employed by Sarah in her collection is one of the reasons why the collection shines. In some of the poems, it is as though Sarah, through a combination of several poetic devices like personification, metaphors and imagery, is walking on water. Speaking of water, still in the poem “We Do Not Yet Know All The Ways”, Sarah invokes the softness of water by saying “it is time for warmth,/we are already waiting/like water on sleep’s surface,/with ink/on our fingertips to draw the map,/fill in the broken lines,/show us where/the path will fork.”
Another important thing to note about the collection The Weather Gods is the intimacy shared between the writer and her words of which extend to the persona and their lover. In most of the poems in the collection, we can almost always see true romance shared between lovers. This shared romance invites us, the readers, to come in and participate. Meaning that in every step of Sarah’s writing, she considered her audience and that is a great trait possessed by many beautiful writers.
One thing that is exceptional in the collection and will leave a lasting impression on its readers is the balance created through a structural antithetic parallelism that runs in the collection. At the beginning, Sarah is filled with love and disbelief in Ghosts or God. But towards the end she acknowledges them and says “I want to rest in the hammocks between definitions,/between ghost and spirit, body and corpse//a crow doesn’t care that it’s a crow and not a raven//we can’t blow breath into a ghost/and call it full of spirit”
As the above quoted lines, Etlinger’s The Weather Gods lives in the in-between—somewhere in the middle of ghosts and spirit, love and loss, memories and moments, a rainfall that fosters intimacy and the one that meets you in the act of changing a flat tire.
This book is stunningly astounding and sooner or later will be a book to be talked about in the mouth of everyone who comes across it.