“In Sloat’s peculiar genius, in Hotel Almighty, she sets out to prove that there is ‘more than one way to chase away misery’ and she has done it by crafting beautifully rendered poems and collages that remind the reader just how astonishing life (and art) can be.”
Sarah J. Sloat’s debut poetry collection, Hotel Almighty, is a visual feast. This assemblage of erasure poems and full-color collages is a fantastical, Rubik’s Cube of a delight. Culled from Stephen King’s 1987 classic, Misery, about a writer who is held captive by a deranged fan, Sloat’s erasures began as a poetry challenge in which each participant was assigned a Stephen King novel. Fittingly, both the words and the images Sloat has assembled combine to offer an aesthetic reprieve from an outside world so often ambushed by gloom.
Erasure allows for chance and possibility but also the risk of work that falls flat. Not so here. Given the fact that in sum total there are less than 1500 words in this 86-page book (brevity even by poetic standards) it’s astonishing how much nuance and meaning Sloat packs into such a minute space.
In the introduction she states her intention to create pairings free of narrative constraint and to “let the poems be like couplets in a ghazal, elusively connected.” And that is precisely how they present—ephemeral renderings—like words hovering inside half-filled balloons.
The first erasure, corresponds with a collage of a free-floating black jacket embroidered with colored bubbles and reads: “A little voice was caught in a well.”
“Once, he forced a small miracle into the hole in the morning” runs another alongside a collage of a man in a bland suit contemplating the ground.
“The hour passed. Operators were standing by” is set against a picture of an old-fashioned phone and eight red dots.
A longer poem is accompanied by an airplane and an arrow pointing up: “carry a milk pail/that none would spill/lay back/in/the urgency of/work/dream a bird/dream a bang/dim the snow./look in on/the sky/think a /bizarre thought. /bring it/in/like a child.”
It’s impossible to do this work justice in a review because part of the enjoyment is in the accumulation, the immersion, in Sloat’s peculiar genius. In Hotel Almighty, she sets out to prove that there is “more than one way to chase away misery” and she has done it by crafting beautifully rendered poems and collages that remind the reader just how astonishing life (and art) can be.