cover image Crawlspace


Nikki Wallschlaeger. Bloof, $15 trade paper (80p) ISBN 978-0-9965868-5-6

“I feel anxious space,” writes Wallschlaeger (Houses) in this righteous and revelatory collection of sonnets that illuminate the liminal zones between the urban and suburban, blackness and whiteness, wealth and struggle, and much more. The sonnet form functions as a container for poems that would otherwise sprawl in multiple dimensions at once. Some of the sonnets layer upon each other to create linked sequences that contain contradictions; for example, Wallschlaeger asks “What is the difference between/ a house and a mall really?” In the universe of these poems, nothing is merely what its surface indicates, as when Wallschlaeger slyly remarks upon America’s school-to-prison pipeline: schools, which have long doubled as fallout shelters, are where children learn “how to surrender their hands to the air.” Racial and economic inequality receive withering attacks. “I’m eating frozen food right now and/ places like Rodeo Drive exist,” she writes. “I’ve been refused service at diners/ in northern Wisconsin so I’m supposed to be grateful// that you’re liberal enough to serve me in a restaurant.” In one sequence the speaker ruminates on exclusive, bourgeois restaurants; in another, “a city planner/ kayaks down the river of my pain/ his briefcase full of rare truffles.” Permeated by animus towards racism and capitalism, Wallschlaeger’s latest collection is political, personal, and timely. (May)