Nightingale is a Flawed, Stunning Revelation | Review: Nightingale by Paisley Rekdal

10:46 PM

2019 has truly given us so many unforgettable poetry collections, hasn't it? Nightingale is beautiful.


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. 

Nightingale by Paisley Rekdal 
Rating: ★★★☆☆

As always, a copy of this book was provided by the publisher or author in exchange for my honest review. This does not effect my opinion in any way.

You never forget your first encounter with a good poet. Nightingale proves this. When I read it, a few months back, I found myself wanting to take it slowly. Savor it. Because, Paisley Rekdal writes in a way that is smooth, in depth and completely moving. There were a few poems I wasn't terribly keen on but for the most part, there was so much good in Nightingale.

If ever there were a perfect place to start with one's work, a real introduction to their core, this is it. I'm glad mine was with Nightingale--I will be reading more by Rekdal in the future. It is beautifully written, completely captivating and art in its truest form.

What I liked most about this collection was the ties to mythology. Everything felt in place. Raw. It felt like exploring something new and feeling something new. Every inch of Nightingale is a revelation and worth the read. Although it is short, it is certainly biting and will leave its mark on you in the long run. What an unforgettable collection.

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