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Eggtooth - Paperback

ISBN: 9798989233335
Binding: Paperback
Author: Jesse Nathan
Pages: 132
Trim: 6.5 x 8.5 inches
Published: 01/09/2024

In this debut collection, Jesse Nathan matches an exquisite feeling for the music of lines and sentences with his profound explorations of the idea of home. The book's title comes from the word for a bit of cartilage on a baby bird's beak, a growth that helps it break out of the egg. Shortly after the bird hatches, the tooth disappears. Like an eggtooth, Nathan's poems are often figures for birth, for the violence of birth and, in his case, rebirth. They follow an unusual and passionate boy from his childhood on a wheat farm in the watershed of the Running Turkey Creek in rural southcentral Kansas — "the land was always the solace" — to his life years later in a coastal city.

Ecology, family, history, sexuality, and poetry itself are his subjects, but in all these matters, Nathan's rich formal imagination travels our fundamental feelings of alienation and belonging. In a style somehow both lavish and plainspoken, in free verse and inherited forms, Eggtooth takes us from straw-bale fortresses in the hayloft, from fishing in streams and days so hot the "blank road shimmers" as the heat drives you out of your "straw-frail" mind, to the respite and loneliness of a far-off city plaza, to the "waves in their folding" at the edge where an ocean comes "boiling" onto sand. With verbal precision and abiding sympathy, Nathan's poems announce a capacious and deeply compelling new voice in American letters.

 

Jesse Nathan was raised in northern California and rural Kansas. He teaches literature at UC Berkeley, and he was a founding editor of the McSweeney's Poetry Series. His poems have appeared in The New York Review of Books, The Paris Review, and The New Republic. This is his first book.

 

"Excellent … lavishly granular and as expansive as the 'wildered sky' … Sensuous pleasures and fresh revelations … A significant new voice." - Publishers Weekly

"An outstanding book of pastoral poetry from an impressive new voice. Nathan is a masterful poet — his language is vivid and alive." - Kirkus Reviews

"By turns finely wrought and bracingly direct … alert to the wonderful and terrible things that happen beneath our feet. Nathan's ear for language and eye for the intersection of natural splendor and trauma are informed by his youth … melding self-aware metaphor with age-old rigor." - Kevin Canfield

"If John Donne 'makes one little room an everywhere,' Nathan makes everywhere fit into his intricate rooms. His Kansas poems itemize local idioms and dignify minor moments with word-painting, impasto-thick. His triple-rhymed cadences make him an unusually melodious and affirmative elegist. [Eggtooth] is a tuning fork of regional sonorities, but it's also the original 'call' to poetry, still singing out 'personal and clear,' no matter how long the distance." - Christopher Spaide

"The first thing one notices when one reads a Jesse Nathan poem is: one's body humming along to the music of his words … the meaning lives in the music here … That is, Eggtooth's music is so fresh, on both the micro and macro level, as the sound plays a live role in Nathan's explorations of memory, his various investigations into ecology, into poetics of place, into history. There's a generous variousness to this poet's lyric impulse. Eggtooth is not an ordinary debut but something quite different." - Ilya Kaminsky

"Gorgeous … a new sort of sting … as concentrated with meaning as it is with sound. The drama in this 'growth of a poet's mind' is in the language. Nathan's style resembles those most sonically extravagant of poets writing in English who retain the power of narrative, from Gerard Manley Hopkins and Hart Crane to John Berryman and (more recently) Atsuro Riley." - Katie Peterson

"[Eggtooth] is attentive and observant … Powerful … A work of mystical observations." - Nick Ripatrazone

"Nathan delivers. The eye for the world around sharpens in these forms, bringing 'sunflowers like skinny men with rubberneck looks,' 'the yarrow-strewn casket' and a smoking 'gravedigger with no sleeves' … Humor bustles beneath nuanced sonic play, while poems throttle a sense of place." - Rebecca Morgan Frank

Nathan attends to every sound. He wants us to chew our food thoroughly before we swallow, in the tradition of meticulous makers such as Emily Dickinson and her offspring Heather McHugh and Lisa Russ Spaar. Savor it." - Ron Slate

"Remarkable … ambitious … Here's to our eggteeth." - Noelle Canty

"[Eggtooth] is ornate, highly musical, finding a kind of Marianne Moore-ish delight in expansive description ... My favorite moments are those when Nathan's speaker (that bookish boy) confronts his queerness … Nathan's delight in stretching the bounds of our common ecologies of language, in trying to describe something until words are exhausted, might be called devotion." - Amelia Ada

"If it can be said that the music in a poem augments reality, then Jesse Nathan's singular vision and genius locate us in opulent lyrics that enhance our meager real-world experience into songs of radiance and wonder. Here is the Gerard Manley Hopkins of the 21st-century: poignant, lively, and sprung, and here are eminently Orphic poems written to reverberate through the ages." - Major Jackson

"Some of the shorter meditations in Eggtooth are astounding, and the longer poems, especially 'Archilochus,' are transportive, between states of time and place, self and its multitudes, rural and urban. This book is a tour de force. The language shines. Here poetry is a pleasure, a thrill, an homage." - Fady Joudah

"One of the newborn wonders of the world, Eggtooth fuses virtuosic originality with deep humility until language itself seems awakened by what it never knew it could do. I'm not sure what more I could want from a book of poems than what Jesse Nathan has given in this stunning debut." - Katie Ford

"Why have so many of our most original poets chosen of late to explore the incitements and constraints of inherited form? Perhaps, like Jesse Nathan, they are drawn to its unmatched powers of spring-loaded infidelity. Perhaps, like Jesse Nathan, they have read deeply in the modest ceremonies of dissenting religion and have distilled a lesson about the human heart and its longing for structure. I love the poems in Eggtooth. I love their knife's edge temporal and moral balancing. I love the way they call the bluff on citified notions of pastoral. I love the way they make me see anew." - Linda Gregerson

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