“Here, Rekdal translates pain into redemption, so that a loss is not an ending but a transformation, in this riveting poetic alchemy.” ―Publishers Weekly, starred review “Nightingale explores what few writers since Ovid have reminded us: metamorphosis is a violent act, requiring dismemberment, silence, and fragmentation before we can become something new.” ―New York Journal of Books Nightingale is a book about change. This collection radically rewrites and contemporizes many of the myths central to Ovid’s epic, The Metamorphoses, Rekdal’s characters changed not by divine intervention but by both ordinary and extraordinary human events. In Nightingale, a mother undergoes cancer treatments at the same time her daughter transitions into a son; a woman comes to painful terms with her new sexual life after becoming quadriplegic; a photographer wonders whether her art is to blame for her son’s sudden illness; and a widow falls in love with her dead husband’s dog. At the same time, however, the book includes more intimate lyrics that explore personal transformation, culminating in a series of connected poems that trace the continuing effects of sexual violence and rape on survivors. Nightingale updates many of Ovid’s subjects while remaining true to the Roman epic’s tropes of violence, dismemberment, silence, and fragmentation. Is change a physical or a spiritual act? Is transformation punishment or reward, reversible or permanent? Does metamorphosis literalize our essential traits, or change us into something utterly new? Nightingale investigates these themes, while considering the roles that pain, violence, art, and voicelessness all play in the changeable selves we present to the world.
“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, The Los Angeles Times, Nov. 2016
“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, The 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
“As with her previous books, Imaginary Vessels is sheer pleasure to read. Words tumble over each other in an exuberance of language that seems effortless, in spite of the fact, or perhaps because of it, that quite a few of her poems have formal structure and rhyme revealing meticulous craft.” Amy Brunvand, 15 Bytes
“[Rekdal’s] poems deepen questions of the containers and of containing, the world fitting into the world, the closed body finding itself lonely, the skull empty and knowing what it must have held. Rekdal is also just plain fun.” Jennifer Michael Hecht, American Poet