The First Flag

Poetry by Sarah Fox

April 23, 2014 • 5.5 x 8.25 • 180 pages • 978-1-56689-326-8

Affirmation, indictment, and essay, The First Flag resists the confines an insidious patriarchy places on our bodies, sexualities, and selves.

I want to tell you about etymology, transparency, excess, spontaneity, chance, and total embodiment. That aggression is propulsion toward visionary action. That we can resolve and transform ourselves through ever-malleable tools—psychoanalysis, myth and fairy tale, divination, allegory, incantation. Raccoons, birds, trees, sticks—all sorts of Whitman’s “divine materials”—are all around me and participating in the same life moment, and if I naturally am inclined to see the world as enchanted and conscious it doesn’t seem like appropriation. I want to tell you about excesses—of the body, the excessive astral body, excretions of the body and soul. I want to offer you a transcript of my human operating system and digress about the poet’s interest in, the poet’s political obsession with, origins, truth, beauty. I want to talk about so many things, flags and Ronald Reagan and cauls and succubi and symbols and shame and dismemberment and even things like Betsy Ross and Neptune in Pisces, and in so doing defend the nature and value of this thesis I’ve birthed and this essaying I can only dream-deliver, using that collectively-invented and collaboratively-sustained ball of fire called “Language.”

About the Author

Sarah Fox lives in Northeast Minneapolis where she co-imagines the Center for Visionary Poetics and also serves as a doula. She has taught poetry and creative writing at the University of Minnesota, the Perpich Center for Arts Education Arts High School, and to diverse populations in a variety of venues via the Loft, COMPAS, the Minnesota State Arts Board, and other community organizations throughout Minnesota for over 15 years. Coffee House Press published her book, Because Why, in 2006. She contributes posts on feminism, mysticism, astrology, and poetics to the multi-author arts and culture blog Montevidayo, and has won grants and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Bush Foundation, the Jerome Foundation, the Minnesota State Arts Board, the Academy of American Poets, and the Graduate Research Partnership Program at the University of Minnesota. Recent work appears in Conduit, Action, Yes, We Are So Happy To Know Something, Poetry City USA Vol 2, Spout, ElevenEleven, Rain Taxi, LUNGFULL!, and others. She performs poetry rituals and other acts of intersubjective communion in public and private spaces whenever she can.

Thanks to a 2013 ADA Access Improvement Grant administered by VSA Minnesota for the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council, this title is also formatted for screen readers which make text accessible to the blind and visually impaired. To purchase this title for use with a screen reader please call (612) 338-0125 or email us at info@coffeehousepress.org.


“[Fox] uses collage, footnotes and fragmentation to create poly-vocal works with both visual and textual elements. . . . These well-wrought images showcase Fox’s skill with rendering image—a fundamental of poetry that she doesn’t subvert.” Star Tribune

The First Flag feels somehow so radical to me that I have difficulty finding language to describe it.” Spoonriver

The First Flag is an extremely complex and ambitious book, one that cuts through the dead-serious ‘playfulness’ and studied poses of much other experimental poetry. It is a book fashioned from the quick and the dead, the raw and the cooked. In it, Sarah Fox has created something profoundly daring, unique, unsettling, and beautiful.” Tarpaulin Sky Press

“An LJ ‘poet to watch,’ Fox returns in a pastiche of form, intelligence, experience, and imagination with verse and essays of experimental design. . . . Fox has a gift for grit, and she’s not afraid to use it.” Library Journal

“I read a ton of fantastic books, thanks to this review column. But still, it’s rare that a book gets me so excited that my notes fill up pages and pages, and I simply can't wait to start reviewing. . . . The First Flag did that for me.” Hazel & Wren

“It has been a long time since I have been so excited about a book of poems the way I am for Sarah Fox’s The First Flag. The poems are some of the most human-animal poems I have read, disarming and beautiful, scary because they are about us, honest and rough, intelligent and real.” Tin House

The First Flag is a mystic alimentary, blood, bone, and pearl poetics—utterly engaging in its seductive conversational tone. But it’s an odd conversation as Fox periodically cries her brains out in ecstasy, disbelief, grief. It’s a luminescent accomplishment, lush with decay, exploding with impossible meldings of stench and shimmer. By way of a powerful natal femininity she claws back the oral threads of her got-away story. I wanted to be right there when her words crowned. Her sentences deliver. It’s not just that her language is a trip; she is really saying something you find you want to hear all the way down. And the footnotes are delightful.” Nor Hall

“Anyone interested in visionary poetics and/or documentary poetics and/or radical feminist phenomenology should give this book a read.” The Volta Blog

“The masterpiece of this extraordinary collection is a hexagonal 36 poem cycle, ‘Comma’. Sarah Fox envisions herself as a separation daemon in a birth theater. By exorcising the hordes and weevil casts of her uteral spectres and conceiving of the 'family romance' as mantic veins to be pumped, she achieves the denouement of becoming fully (not just physically) born. Birth as apocalyptic breakdown; the work? Imaginal punctuality.” Clayton Eshleman

“Attention, human-born: ‘THE WAR-TO-ETERNITY BLOWS LIKE BELUGA THROUGH MAN-HOLES ON ‘THE BODY OF MOM.’’ So announces Sarah Fox’s new grimoire-cum-war-manual, The First Flag. This book is not fearless, but, like Notley’s Alette, it pushes through fear as it pushes through membranes of harm, violence, toxicity, ill-inheritance, silence and suppression to retrieve a kind of knowledge from the opposite side. Fox’s poetry is a disarming, potent striving after some as-yet-unparaphrasable element which might, eventually, be healing. So necessary is this battle-passage for the liberation of our desiccated moment that our new flag must bear a line of Fox’s poetry: ‘FUCK THE PATROLMAN AT THE BORDER. At any border, within or without.’” Joyelle McSweeney

“[Fox’s poem ‘COMMA’] marks the arrival of a strong new voice for our continuing poetry project.” Jacket2

“Sarah Fox’s work is a force resisting a dysfunctional and still anti-woman medical industry.” —Drunken Boat