cover image Eggtooth


Jesse Nathan. Unbound Edition, $24 (136p) ISBN 979-8-9870199-0-0

The excellent debut from Nathan is both lavishly granular and as expansive as the “wildered sky,” offering a complex portrait of place and belonging that overflows “the wooden bucket/ of nostalgia.” Born in Berkeley, Calif., and raised on a Kansas farm by his Mennonite Kansan mother and his East Coast Jewish father, the poet is a transplant “high-hearted and stunned to the root-toes.” With an archeologist’s zeal and a memoirist’s desire to plumb the self, his self-appointed “job today is to dig”: “I stab and sink my narrow spade/ through turf and root and worm and sticky clay.” He unearths “a past/ alive in the must and crushed in layers.” The book’s long centerpiece grafts Nathan’s own childhood onto the histories of landforms and of the humans and nonhuman beings that have moved onto the land: “I’m remembering that it wasn’t the land that carved me apart,/ but a system of culture, a school of/ flak from an elder if you couldn’t pull a straight furrow.” Elsewhere, he suggests an analogy between his own poetic lines (“like creeks across pastures, beneath a huge sun/ of remembering”) and marks made by the “unremitting blade” of the road-grader. Nathan’s language savors sound: “stinging nettles, sneezeweed and terse breezes.” Sensuous pleasures and fresh revelations will reward readers hungry for the arrival of a significant new voice. (Sept.)