“My mouth a well-trod wound”: A Review of [Sarah] Cavar’s bug butter

Cover of Bug Butter by Cavar

Poet and scholar [sarah] Cavar’s latest chapbook from Gap Riot Press, bug butter, is a reclamation of space. The poet’s command of the page takes the reader from snapshot to snapshot of nature, the family, and the body. It’s here in the body that the poems are grounded, allowing them to expand beyond tradition and into an authentic experience of embodiment for both the reader and the poet.

The opening poem, “My stomach,” invites the reader into this carefully cultivated space; the first line a continuation of the title:

begs my pardon
has big             eyes

From this moment, the body makes itself known and establishes itself as the forefront of the collection. The piece continues:

a little red mouth        my
pardon spits into         the tender
eye at the navel of       my stomach
asks my pardon what is it that
which constitutes con
-cave?

The imagery of this poem is presented on the terms of the speaker’s stomach, creating a fragmented vision of the body with the use of spacing. The reader is let in on this intimate back-and-forth, the rising tension that is further pent up at the final line rather than released. 

Form, like the body, is not static in Cavar’s pages. In poems such as “well if it isn’t the bicranial quadraped known as,” the poet uses a split form inspired by the animated Catdog to further emphasize a sense of otherness, as well as provide a dual reading experience. The left “cat” column of the poem consists of imagery-laden descriptions while the right “dog” column features shorter snippets emphasized by slashes within the lines. The following poem, “eating poem,” stretches across the page horizontally, moving from image to image. One such line reads:

I am                 a freezer pixie:           small           &energy dense

The blank space allows the reader to find additional meaning in these gaps.

Moving beyond the speaker’s own body, Cavar writes, “This is a manifestation of the things you wish you said to your father” in the prose poem “THIS IS NOT A MEAL.” Every page of bug butter contains traces of this sentiment. The wordplay in this particular piece enhances the movement between cultural landmarks and family dynamics that the poet navigates, eventually landing on “the bone of contention between you and the person for whom you set the table.” In this navigation, the world of the poem is expanded to encompass familiar images for the reader, but leaves the reader with a sense of wonder at the subversion of the dinner table. The reader learns to trust Cavar as a guide in poems such as this one.

In this collection of thirteen poems, Cavar engages in various forms, adding to the captivating reading experience. The poet’s use of rich sounds and visceral images throughout serves each poem uniquely, yet allows them to cohere in this solid chapbook. Upon finishing bug butter, I guarantee you will find yourself reading these biting poems aloud again and again.

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