Nightingale is a book about transformation. By radically rewriting myths central to Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Paisley Rekdal contemporizes Ovid’s tropes of violence, dismemberment, silence, and fragmentation. A series of connected poems trace the continuing effects of sexual violence and rape on survivors, where nightmares mix with images of empathy, and hope emerges from the dark forest of memory. Rekdal’s characters change and change again, not by divine intervention but through human events: illness, injury, love, creation. Is transformation punishment or reward? How does language name, and fail to name, that which permanently changes us? Nightingale boldly sings of our mutable world, where we each wake into something terrifyingly new.
“Rekdal’s poetry is powerful and tender, sensual and muscular, honest and ultimately transformative.” —Booklist
“Lovely, lyrical, bracing work; a must-read.” —Library Journal, starred review
“Rekdal is a poet of observation and history, one who carefully weighs the consequences of time. She revels in detail but writes vast, moral poems that help us live in a world of contraries in which ‘we hold still for the camera, believing / it will shore up time, knowing it won’t.’ These are some of the best lyric poems being written today.” —Craig Morgan Teicher, Los Angeles Times
“Geoffrey Hill once praised what he referred to as ‘the sensuous intellect,’ and that seems to be what moves Rekdal (in both senses of the verb) most often in [her] poems… [that] end in generous, small deceptions, uncertain transformations, and beauty. It’s the kind of thing we might get from a short story but that our notions of poetry too often seem to preclude (Rekdal’s poems, while unmistakably poetry, often excel at prose virtues)―a commitment to illusion based on its potential to hold something valuable and true.” —Jonathan Farmer, Kenyon Review
“Rekdal’s [work] is relentlessly heartbreaking and intense, but also full of the pleasures of closely observed detail and imagination given free rein.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review
“Rekdal reveals so much about artmaking, trauma, and the role of poetry through the gloss in this labyrinthine collection.” —AGNI
Finalist, Washington State Book Award in Poetry, 2020