the world seems to split up
into those who need to dredge
and those who shrug their shoulders
and say, It’s just something
While Maggie Nelson refers here to a polluted urban waterway, the Gowanus Canal, these words could just as easily describe Nelson’s incisive approach to desire, heartbreak, and emotional excavation in Something Bright, Then Holes. Whether writing from the debris-strewn shores of a contaminated canal or from the hospital room of a friend, Nelson charts each emotional landscape she encounters with unparalleled precision and empathy. Since its publication in 2007, the collection has proven itself to be both a record of a singular vision in the making as well as a timeless meditation on love, loss, and—perhaps most frightening of all—freedom.
Nelson’s nexus is fluidity: gender, pleasure, desire, and the body are questioned with equal rigor as modality, criticality, and theory. Those concerns are present in Something Bright . . . But in this collection, Nelson’s heady, narcotic philosophizing is underpinned by a more personal vulnerability.
New in June Roundup
This re-issue of Nelson’s 2007 collection of poems shows the celebrated author in her most incisive and economic form—a record of a protean talent in the making.
Soft Skull Press has released a gorgeous reissue of Nelson’s Something Bright, Then Holes and, despite being originally published in 2007, it’s easily one of the best books of 2018. . . . Maggie Nelson elicits genuine awe with each turn of the page. . . . Something Bright, Then Holes is candid and heartfelt, blurring the lines between poetry and storytelling fluently and with thoughtful contemplation. These poems swathe their reader and craft a voyeuristic sense of empathy; it’s as if you’re not supposed to be there. Yet, here you are.
Maggie Nelson’s gorgeous, expansive book of poetry feels like a necessary summer read, not least because of Nelson’s ability to so palpably, grotesquely, beautifully make clear the urgency of love and fucking, as she does in the book’s titular poem.
It’s Nelson’s articulation of her many selves—the poet who writes prose; the memoirist who considers the truth specious; the essayist whose books amount to a kind of fairy tale, in which the protagonist goes from darkness to light, and then falls in love with a singular knight—that makes her readers feel hopeful.
Maggie Nelson is one of the most electrifying writers at work in America today, among the sharpest and most supple thinkers of her generation.
Over three sections, Nelson employs a consistent narrator, recognizable settings, recurring characters and a few structures closely resembling plots. But it’s not fiction. And though each section also has lines, stanzas, and lyric musicality, it’s poetry only in a very loose sense. Instead, it’s a stunning collection of real-world stories shadowed by the netherworld of poetry.
Maggie Nelson has such drive in her language. Things do not dangle off this drive, but rather get resolutely pushed aside by her poem’s forward motion . . . She delivers the goods with fiendish delight.
Maggie Nelson is one of the most exciting poetic talents of her generation.
Maggie Nelson cuts through our culture’s prefabricated structures of thought and feeling with an intelligence whose ferocity is ultimately in the service of love. No piety is safe, no orthodoxy, no easy irony. The scare quotes burn off like fog.