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Book Review :: Scorch by Natalie Rice

Guest Post by Jami Macarty

In Scorch, Natalie Rice writes “under the gravity / of immovable objects.” Our narrator asks, “How far can one carry such // emptiness?” Someone in these lyric, meditative poems wants “to be lonely,” despite the “ache in my chest completely / out of control”; yearns to feel “the freight / of my own becoming,” “to know the narrative // of my life.” In this way, Rice’s poems form a seeker’s pilgrimage and a mountain retreat “to lean / into what cannot be explained.”

There’s a sense that the poems are “tethered” to an aftermath of “collapse,” and that though there may be “nothing / left here to burn,” there is reparation and rejuvenation taking place: “a newness /… pushing / through soot,” marking how easily the natural world holds “contradictions.”

Situated in and “shaped by the living world of the Okanagan valley,” the poems “ blaze” with “iridescent bodies”: “the lady slipper / [that] blooms before the tiger lily,” “wild clematis,” “balsamroot flower,” “the last goldenrod /… plucked for the table,” and “[g]rass [that] is a fire // before it knows it is fire.” Is this “what emptiness sounds like” from “a body designed for grief”? “What if the answer // is that there is no answer?” Then, could it be enough to recognize the “unsayable // hung like a red berry in the back / of [the] throat”? Might the act of describing cast one of the “spells / to ward off longing,” “a common grief… / dissolving without telling // us why”?

Dear Reader, with a fine “ear / tethered to the ground” and “one line of a poem…tethered to two hundred / million small, beating bodies,” Natalie Rice heightens our awareness “into something so precious.”

Scorch by Natalie Rice. Gaspereau Press, 2023.

Reviewer bio: Jami Macarty is the author of The Minuses (Center for Literary Publishing, 2020), winner of the 2020 New Mexico/Arizona Book Award – Poetry Arizona, and three chapbooks, including Mind of Spring (Vallum, 2017), winner of the 2017 Vallum Chapbook Award. Jami’s writing has been honored by financial support from Arizona Commission on the Arts, British Columbia Arts Council, and by editors at magazines such as The Capilano Review, Concision Poetry Journal, Interim, Redivider, Vallum, and Volt, where Jami’s poems appear.

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