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 latest collection is political, personal, and timely.”— Publishers Weekly
“How can you not be grateful, in such an ugly time, for a poet who so closely and wryly and wrenchingly and furiously observes a nation?”—Chicago Tribune
“She deploys a new vocabulary for talking about the legacies of slavery and white supremacy as they manifest in daily life—a vocabulary that is as damning as it is lush, as rich with sound as it is bright with image… The domestic scenes she makes in her poems complicate clichés of who black women in America are ‘supposed’ to be.” —Hyperallergic
“The first-person perspective is harrowing and heartbreaking in its vulnerability and honesty.”— Luna Luna Magazine
“Wallschlaeger’s is a poetics of multiplication and plurality.”— Entropy
“I admire the grave persistence of her vision, the precision of her eye and ear.”—Joyelle McSweeney