Sex at Noon Taxes by Sally Van Doren

Sex at Noon Taxes by Sally Van Doren arrived in my mailbox from the American Academy of Poets. Van Doren’s volume won the Walt Whitman Award from the Academy. I read the title and spent a great deal of time pondering it before I opened the book. Is the sex at noon taxing or is it taxed at noon? There is a play on words here.

The book is broken down into four parts.

Sex at Noon Taxes is the first poem in the book, and the inscription mentions a painting by Ed Ruscha (at right). Here are some of my favorite lines from Van Doren’s poem: “avalanche turns snowfall into/uncorraled horseshoes.//”

The images in Van Doren’s poems leave the reader thinking, not because they are difficult to understand, but because they expel a number of meanings in a minimalist fashion.

As a writer, I’m always fascinated with how writers take on the craft in their work whether it’s punctuation or poems themselves. Some of my favorites from this volume include “Preposition,” “Conjunction,” and “Pronoun/Punctuation.” I’ll leave those a mystery, but I will share with you some of my favorite lines from “Gephyrophobia.” “If there is a bridge,/I cannot see it,/but I know I want/to cross it, to walk/” As you can see from the language, it is simple, tells a story, and holds an undercurrent of something deeper.

A lot of these poems display playful language and at times it is musical. Molly Peacock says that Van Doren’s poems’ “vocabulary fizzles off the page.”

About the poet:

Sally Van Doren was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri. She is a graduate of Phillips Academy and Princeton University and received an M.F.A. from the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

Her poems have appeared in many journals, among them: Barrow Street, Boulevard, Cincinnati Review, Colorado Review, LIT, Margie, Parthenon West Review, Poetry Daily, Pool, River Styx and Southwest Review. She was a semi-finalist in the 2006 “Discovery”/The Nation Poetry Contest. Her poem, “The Sense Series,” was the text for a multimedia performance at the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis.

Van Doren has taught creative writing in the St. Louis Public Schools and curates the Sunday Poetry Workshops for the St. Louis Poetry Center. She divides her time between St. Louis and Cornwall, Connecticut.

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