Two Signatures

In Two Signatures, Sara Ellen Fowler initiates her readers into a synesthetic contract of close attention and deep feeling. From the wood floor of an art museum buckling with Lake Michigan moisture, to the mud-packed hooves of the horse of childhood, to an art student’s spit on a pane of mirrored glass, the poems’ images string together a necklace of exquisite longing. Pleasures and complexities of sensory experience lay the ground for a world where risk is rewarded and candor is sensual. The poet explores registers of desire and power, drawing upon her training as a visual artist to make a studio of language. Temperature and texture gain grammar as the poems reach toward awe via multivalent psychology, sex, and sculptural interventions. These poems invite readers to explore the vulnerability and insistence that mark one’s devotion to any creative practice.
Sara Ellen Fowler is a writer, artist, and educator living in California. Her writing has appeared in The Offing, X-TRA Contemporary Art Journal, Interim, and Gigantic Sequins, among others. Her work has been supported by The Frost Place, the Ashbery Home School, and Community of Writers. In 2023, she was awarded a California Arts Council Individual Artist Fellowship. Sara holds a BFA in Sculpture from Art Center College of Design and an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of California, Riverside.
Table of Contents:Table of Contents:
Good Mare
Glassell Park
The Cutters
I do not comprehend the current traveling
Portrait with water
Old Paint
Painted monument in the night of my body
Reading with Temperature
One cannot pray to the horses
You come for me
Untitled (daemon)
Black licorice
Night Shirt
What I mean by temperature
[I learn to lick]
[I learn tension]
[Because I am skulled with the thought]
[I learn to prepare the ground]
[stay the gun and tawn-amber]
[Just give me a job]
[A postcard]
My mother was a barrel racer
On the poet’s thirtieth birthday, 1962
Reading Plath
Light’s loose skin
Right After, 1969
Elegy for Skip Lanz
Mare and all
Bracelet for Who I Was
Bezel for my mind
Ars Poetica
Blue-brown morning, I step through common starlings


Praise and Reviews:Declaring to 'believe in the horizon only,' Sara Ellen Fowler in this extraordinary debut continually looks outward, looks at the spaces in between—the spaces both perceived and beyond our grasp. In stunning lyrics that are both eclogue and elegy, that are built from barrel races, FFA jackets, and brushfires leaping the lanes of freeway, Fowler engages a poetics of natural and supernatural means. But 'could language be altar enough'? Working in portraiture, in plein air, in ekphrasis, Fowler finds solace somewhere between the visual and the verbal, finds sustenance and beauty—poem after gorgeous poem—within attentive and exquisite forms where even the horse’s hoof holds the 'private archive of the ride.'”—Brandon Som, author of Tripas

"In language carried on air, in the cellular material of generations, each poem in Two Signatures traces its source invisibly across the spine of another. The poems work inside the body with an explicit sensual, grave, and rare haunting. They settle inside first like a bridge from one life to the next but soon as a fractured web of one life to the many and the many to the impossible count. The poems piece back from their hard light the scattered, the unspooled, the untethered and the strange, taking incident and moment into a terrible, godly reunion."—Asher Hartman, artist and theater maker

"The images and questions presented in Two Signatures will haunt you in the best way. Fowler is a genius at articulating the mysterious experience of being a body among other bodies—what it means to touch, to be touched, to be pulled apart by the world around us. These poems challenge the borders and boundaries of language, invoking moments of transcendence in vignettes of horses, fields, and lovers. This collection speaks in a voice both idiosyncratic and beautiful as we witness the interior landscapes of a curious and longing mind unfold before us."—Joshua Jennifer Espinoza, author of I Don't Want to Be Understood

"Internal severance certainly compels these staggering poems to the page, yet this book is no mirror. Sara Ellen Fowler’s insight arrives from other worlds fraught with schism: Eros both fuses and flees. Art might guide or banish you. Some endings that hold were mistakes. Far from a book of despair, Two Signatures gathers wisdom from paradox, gathers in both body and mind a yes to the pained hope that 'One cannot be made whole the same way twice.'"—Katie Ford, author of If You Have to Go

“In Two Signatures, Sara Ellen Fowler writes a body-forward poetry, meaning its twin foci are its obligation to the bodies of words and its obligation to animal bodies, human and otherwise. It is a poetry that glorifies bodies honestly, as one hears in the music and attentiveness of lines like, ‘tip toes up up to loop the belt to try to get their neck up to it,’ and ‘cat head on the lawn the impossible red the overcast red.’ It is a poetry that doesn't settle for beauty, but aims for the sublime—it is a poetry that is Fowler's own, meaning, as is the case with all singular poetries, in it the world is seen for the first time.”—Shane McCrae, author of The Many Hundreds of the Scent
"Sara Ellen Fowler’s debut collection, Two Signatures, sculpts a private language from the exquisite heat of longing and bewilderment. 'I am listening with my skin for her,' Fowler writes, and later commands, 'Hurt me / like this: let me // know your teeth as dearly as / I study my mother.' Allied with Dickinson’s measure of knowing, Fowler’s lyrics alter my temperature, like physical touch, culminating in a sensual decapitation. Yes, as Fowler writes, 'love has taken us down / word for word.' Yes, this book is a gift of intimacy and transformation made tangible in its reaching. An extraordinary debut—highly recommended."—Allison Benis White, author of Please Bury Me in This