Sarah Galvin is here, she’s queer, and she would like to talk about something else for a moment!
In Ugly Time, developers are transforming her hometown into a white-washed, glass box jungle. She’s barely making rent. Her girlfriend just threw her heart in the garbage. Sex with strangers she meets on the internet is great and then empty and then great and then empty again. The 21st century is changing at hyperspeed, and it seems as if no one has time to talk about an old Kate Bush album or to praise "the patron saint of blowing up rotisserie chickens with fireworks” like they use to. But who’s that beautiful person dressed head-to-toe in gold velvet? Did she just put Roy Orbison on the jukebox? Could love still be possible in the time of gentrification? And if so, does it redeem human suffering, sort of like, as Galvin writes, when "you step in human shit / while filming porn, / and notice the cherry petals / floating around you like sparks?”
In a series of hilarious, tender, hyperreal poems, Galvin explores the paradox of trying to settle down—even for just a second—in a state of permanent impermanence.
At a time in America when the beautiful people are proudly wearing their hideous insides on the outside, it’s important to explore the truly absurd. That’s what Sarah Galvin does with scathing humor and warm integrity in Ugly Time. Her brightly observant and usually hilarious poems treat an extreme, two-dimensional world to equal parts celebration and castigation. Political figures behave like the cartoons they are. The disenfranchised hang onto their human ugliness instead of trading it in for beautiful, bloodless neoliberal vampirism. No matter how darkened the skyline by ugly, corporate tombs, we see the weird, beautiful trash fires of the people burning in Galvin’s lines.
Sarah Galvin is my favorite poet, and Ugly Time is the most essential book of poems for These Troubled Times; through these poems is a way into the mad lantern of Galvin's imagination. Each of these poems is as bright as a thousand hilarious suns, as heartbreaking as a snow day cancelling your heart's funeral. Really: this is a holy-grail book, rigorous and and consistently challenging, chilling, and charming. And alarming.
The droll humor of Sarah Galvin’s Ugly Time reflects a worldview entirely her own: funny, horny, reveling. “I heard a story on NPR about a guy who could /orgasm from peeing in the sink.” Free of the cynicism that dominates much of contemporary discourse, Galvin’s world is the world we live in but can’t see, and reading it is healing the way drinking weed lemonade (yes, that's a thing) on a sunny day with a great friend you haven’t caught up with in a really long time is healing.
Ugly Time spins you into a rollicking psyche pummeled on all sides by sex and death and pop culture, certainty and anxiety. Hilarious and disturbing, compulsive and compelling, this book rules.
Listen, everyone loves Sarah Galvin, and for obvious reasons. But despite being an increasingly visible writer/performer, and a frequent Stranger contributor, Galvin is the kind of writer whose technical skills tend to go unappreciated—even unnoticed—because her presentation is so pleasing.
March 15, 2017
Upon opening Ugly Time, I couldn’t have known that I had 90 pages about human genitalia, cowboys, rubber band ukulele’s, and lots and lots of butts to look forward to. The genius in Galvin’s writing is that she is able to balance all of these elements while staying true to the emotional turmoil the speaker feels at various points in the collection.
Nervous Poodle Poetry
March 12, 2017
The sensation of Seattle in 2017, with old disappointments being torn down to make room for newer, more antiseptic disappointments, has rarely been captured so honestly.
The poems in Ugly Time are observational and confessional and so amiable that you often don’t realize how brutal they are until you’re a few pages past. The concept of “childhood traumas” as something “like a civil war re-enactment,” playing out again and again with “my obsessive recollection of how each person fell,” is such a clear and perfect image that for a second it almost seems too obvious. (And the fact that Galvin covers it all up with a good joke about hats only adds to the power.)
Seattle Review of Books
March 15, 2017