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“This poet comes at you straight from the heart, no holds barred, pure energy and emotion and exuberance barely contained. From her darkly funny “fat lady” poems, to her keen renderings of love anticipated and foiled, through her willingness to kneel eye-to-eye with death, Pagh’s honesty and wit rock our world. Rarely have I read a book of poems in one sitting, cover to cover, but with this collection I couldn’t help myself—Nancy Pagh’s voice compels us to stay with her to see what might happen next. She convinces us that poetry happens everywhere—in the bathtub, at the doctor’s office, on the treadmill at the gym—and we come away from these poems viewing the world a little differently with, in her words, “the articulated brilliance/that comes/after pulling away/the abalone’s meat.” There’s no doubt about it: you will simply love these poems.” –Brenda Miller, author of Listening against the Stone, Editor-in-Chief, The Bellingham Review
“It seems clear that our lives are defined by both what we want and the ways in which we find ourselves rewarded or frustrated in the pursuit of our many wishes. Nancy Pagh’s poems take an elaborate look at this persistent complication. At times her language is poignantly raw, at other moments tender, understated. Some of the poems employ humor to get at the intersections of emotion and experience that might, otherwise, be lost to silence. In fact, it is the author’s willingness to bring to speech those diffuse agonies that settle over daily life that makes these poems such good reading.
Perhaps what makes us human—for better and for worse—is our limitless capacity for yearning. I read poems to find out how other people do it, how they wrestle with the barely caged hunger at the center of things. No Sweeter Fat is a virtual encyclopedia on the subject.” –Tim Seibles, author of Fast Animal
“Nancy Pagh’s first book of poetry is stunning, one of the best contemporary poetry collections I have read in a long time. Imaginative, smart, surprising, well-crafted and moving, Pagh avoids the stylistic cleverness and soullessness of trendy/lifeless poems this reader of current American poetry has endured. Her poetic values show in every poem: a reader exists and matters immensely. The limits of her language equal the limits of her wide world, a multiverse. What is especially moving about these poems is their intimacy, intelligence and humor. I trust this voice implicitly. These poems give us new ways to feel.” –Kathleen Halme, author of Drift and Pulse
“Literature teachers are often wont to say that anything can be made the subject of poetry. And this is the collection that proves that point. From diets to seafood to the treadmill, Nancy Pagh’s No Sweeter Fat makes the reader laugh, cry and reflect, often in the same poem.
These poems are womanly. In theme, these are poems of the earth, the sea, the body, poems grounded in food, in sexual longing, in keen observations of the way people sweat, eat, and bathe. Like Whitman and Ginsberg, Nancy Pagh celebrates the body. Pagh’s poetry shows us the complexity of her relationship with her fat female body, and so helps us with our own relationship with our bodies. She questions the ideal of beauty, the cost of which is often alienation from our bodies.
Pagh is not alienated from her body. She does not sugar-coat life in a fat body. Early in the book, her poem “Fat Lady’s Bath” is full of anger and self-hatred. But Pagh does not want pity. She wants understanding. What emerges from these poems is a candid woman spurned because of her size and longing for human connection. She expresses her humanity poignantly. Whitman said, “I celebrate myself, / And what I assume you shall assume, / For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.” Nancy Pagh celebrates herself with all of the pain, regret and sorrow of years of taunts. Yet every atom of her belongs as good to us.” –John Samuel Tieman, Coal Hill Review
“No Sweeter Fat illustrates not so much a coming-to-terms with size as a simple, primitive hunger for self-expression. Energy and frankness animate this multi-dimensional depiction of desire. As the speaker negotiates a space for her voice, the poems become increasingly exuberant: stunned, caught, bowled over “because everything in this world is beauty.” Pagh urges us to see beauty and tenderness in unexpected places: the “magenta rhododendrons” in the “trailer park,” the “gorgeous sunlit spangles” in the “chalky stream” of a gull’s excrement. She insists that we taste the distasteful and swallow the troubling truths that she unfolds, “over and over carefully like a cinnamon roll.” We might find them, after all, sweeter and more palatable than we thought. —Cuizine: The Journal of Canadian Food Cultures
“No Sweeter Fat is Nancy Pagh’s strong first collection of poetry. A Northwesterner born and bred, her imagery comes from the animal- and plant-life and weather of this region. In her hands nature is quite natural, palpable and blessedly non-romanticized.
The poetry in the book’s first section concerns, in third- and first-person, “the fat lady.” These poems convincingly convey, through direct language and thoroughly arresting imagery, the vast emotional range, from joy to melancholy, felt by the self-aware cultural outsider. This is rich and complex work, artistically and psychologically, ripe with longing and longing’s sibling, anger. And a wry, bittersweet sense of humor underpins all Ms. Pagh’s poems.” –Christine Deavel & John W. Marshall in The Open Books Newsletter
“What a splendid repast! Nancy Pagh’s poems are as shapely, graceful and sensual as the madrona/arbutus she imagines as a final-resting place. Cadence, metaphor, wit—and surprises, line after line.” –Gary Geddes, author of What Does A House Want? Selected Poems
“No Sweeter Fat, ultimately, is a communication from an island, a sturdy voice shaping a song that strives tirelessly at bravery.” —The Main Street Rag