In her astounding third collection, Nikki Wallschlaeger turns to water―the natural element of grief―to trace history’s interconnected movements through family, memory, and day-to-day survival. Waterbaby is a book about Blackness, language, and motherhood in America; about the ancestral joys and sharp pains that travel together through the nervous system’s crowded riverways; about the holy sanctuary of the bathtub for a spirit that’s pushed beyond exhaustion. Waterbaby sings the blues in every key, as Wallschlaeger uses her vibrant lexicon and varied rhythms to condense and expand emotion, hurry and slow meaning, communicating the profound simultaneity of righteous dissatisfaction with an unjust world, and radical love for what’s possible.

ISBN: 9781556596131

Format: Paperback

About the Author

Nikki Wallschlaeger’s work has been featured in The Nation, Brick, American Poetry Review, Witness, Kenyon Review, Poetry, and others. She is the author of the full-length collections Waterbaby (Copper Canyon Press, 2021), Houses (Horseless Press 2015), and Crawlspace (Bloof 2017), as well as the graphic book I Hate Telling You How I Really Feel (2019) from Bloof Books. She is also the author of an artist book called “Operation USA” through the Baltimore-based book arts group Container, a project acquired …

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“Wallschlaeger’s poems move through complex textures and varied verbal registers, from the ravines of slim, precise lyric, to lakes of reportage and not-so-speculative prose poetry, to the river of song. Waterbaby is a book for this moment, when “our soul’s bodies are half hanging out all the time;” it’s a scorching indictment as much as a drink for the scorched. The book’s “manic xennial vulnerability” and lyric genius zoom in on daily lives and details, leaving nothing and no one unseen. These far-reaching poems reveal a broad perspective and horizon where a future America can be glimpsed. Its poetry is already here.”—NPR

“Motherhood and family can provide a deep well of inspiration for writers, and Nikki Wallschlaeger’s new collection dives in head-first. Delving into Black womanhood, the postpartum body, and what it means to sustain love and warmth, Wallschlaeger’s work is unflinching in its honesty. It is about darkness and hope, struggle and survival, sinking and floating.”—Electric Lit

“There is a difference between angry poetry, which can come from anything and everything, and the kind of righteous dissatisfaction and indignation that holds Waterbaby together. This song isn’t just a healing song; this is the song we should play as we march into battle against racism and as we imagine the party we’d have after the death of capitalism. Read this celebration of language and then join me in eagerly awaiting Wallschlaeger’s next collection.”—PANK

“This collection is one for this moment. It details hardship, identity, grief, and loss, themes we have become familiar with amidst our distanced, chaotic year. However, this collection includes messages of hope, observing the love it takes to believe in change and healing. Wallschlaeger’s musical and lyrical depths sing of our world, showing us the poetry that exists everywhere around us.”—The Arkansas International

“Nikki Wallschlaeger’s Waterbaby is a multi-faceted self-portrait of a Black woman in America crafted out of poems that take the form of blues songs, letters, stories, dreams, lyric incantations, language-driven fevers, even a music playlist. While making palpable the traumas of Black history, Wallschlaeger draws together intense feelings of grief and horror, to create vibrant, deeply moving sequences…”—Poetry Foundation

“Wallschlaeger definitely has a fluid, ethereal knack for expressing not-so-pretty truths…”—Reader’s Digest

Waterbaby is Wallschlaeger’s third collection that takes on personal and political themes such as memory, family, and one’s Black body blending with historical movement. It is directed at our unjust world infused as it is with capitalism and racism. Hers is poetry bypassing the traps of dead lexicons and even deadlier literary tropes to reveal the live history beneath daily and familial routines. Waterbaby pushes through exhaustion and grief to discover what’s possible.”—Los Angeles Review of Books

As featured in:

The Rumpus, “What to Read When You Want to Celebrate Poetry”

Ms. Magazine, “2021 Poetry for the Rest of Us”

Reader’s Digest, “14 Amazing Black Poets to Know About Now”