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.
“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