Army Cats, Sleigh's eighth collection of poetry, confronts a cultural moment in which currents of violence or states of emergency underscore life experience and art making. In poems that, as Seamus Heaney notes, "refuse to cut emotional corners," Sleigh confronts aspects of war, journalism, art, and selfhood. The poems locate the reader in such places as Beirut, Ground Zero, the International Space Station, a YouTube video, and strains of a Charles Mingus tune. Sleigh's energy, precision, and unflagging desire to find connection often color the poems. From "The Games":
So in these lines let me try to keep you near
while clarities of air rise up against the stones of our crumbling coliseums when the IED blows the bus fifty feet into the air.
The exactitude with which Sleigh is able to convey specific images and emotions imbues the work in Army Cats with a sense of clarity amid chaos, which in itself is a survival act. In "Speech for a Fly," Sleigh writes "I go berserk battering myself against brightness." The poem "To Death" begins, "You won't wipe away my joy."
This book review originally appeared in American Poets.