The expansiveness of the poems in Sandra Miller’s extraordinary first book requires a different page: one in which white space frames and shapes the physicality of each poem, title, and word. Among Miller’s influences are the Russian avant-garde artists of the turn of the twentieth century; her poems are as sculptural as the page permits, in “packets” rather than stanzas that move visually as well as narratively through the work. Passionate, these are poems that are battle standards in the defense of art, poetry, and the intelligence of the ear. “Delicate and sure, spare and very, very precise,” is how Cole Swensen describes them. “They haunt. They break your heart. They make you want to live. oriflamme. marks a new direction in American poetry. No one else is doing anything like it, yet.”
passes months of landscape gloom.
pursuit of gravel skirt—
pursuit of grass—
an overbit bowl was also green enough—
still the distil—
chains laid on the sod—
grass like coin—
lay down for watering the back—
neck lace shirt twists around neck—
green stained knuckle stands up—
a house bout in the yard fell—
seen through armored window—
pruned & blind—shade from it kneel
in the stripped pasture—graze
over the hidden hill bones—
smelt copper shells for wearing & looking better—
this will match—we will burn up over it
the language of seed, forever.
Copyright © 2005 by Sandra Miller
"'I take space to be the central fact to man born in America, from Folsom cave to now,' writes Charles Olson in Call Me Ishmael. 'The fulcrum of America is the plains, half sea half land, a high sun as metal and obdurate as the iron horizon, and a man’s job to square the circle.' Almost sixty years after Olson’s study of Melville, the young poet Sandra Miller has arguably made it her job 'to square the circle,' imbuing poems in her remarkable debut collection oriflamme. with many of the same omnivorous compositional qualities so characteristic of Olson’s verse. Sprawling in their typography, compact in their syntax and constellate imagery, the poems in oriflamme. locate themselves halfway between an astute grammar of perception and an American vernacular from within this 'fulcrum' . . . . The poems in the collection always seek out meaning but sometimes evade (very intentionally) our expectations of what a poem should do. . . . the poem reveals the mind in the midst of processing the workings of landscape—a landscape as pared-down and disjoint as the verse—on the body, on, as Miller says elsewhere, 'oneself' . . . . Miller's compressed 'transrational' fugues wed the plains’ expansive, sometimes blurred grammar with an enticing recalibration of language in such a way that makes this book intriguing, heartfelt, utterly new, and vital to our age." —Anthony Hawley in Prairie Schooner
Sandra Miller holds degrees from the University of Washington (Women's Studies), the University of Chicago (M.A., Early Cinema), and the Iowa Writers' Workshop. She has served as a writer-in-residence in Slovenia, and is recipient of the Iowa Arts Fellowship and the Paul Engle-James Michener Fellowship. oriflamme. is her first book.
She now goes by the name Sandra Doller.