Poems that reach towards the lost or the might have been.
In her debut collection, Susan Elmslie delves into the life and mental illness of the real person behind André Breton’s surrealist romance, Nadja, recovering the story of a flesh and blood woman who became a symbol for the unknowability of the feminine and the irrational side of the human psyche. Ultimately, I, Nadja is about many women as Elmslie’s lyrically astute, confident lines move into the daily world of motherhood, adolescent memories and heroines like Marie Curie and George Sand. With her great fury of a voice, Elmslie’s poems are forthright and daring, fearlessly rhapsodic, as “they sing/your shape through doorways, … sing/the whole house awake.”
I can get perfect distance between us — maybe
language is what washes the sheets eventually,
snapping on the line, telling us how neat things must be.
Like irony: a man spent eighteen years building a plane, only
to have it crash on its maiden flight, killing him completely.
Some throw themselves in to the role of the timeless lover,
believing only in their own ability to endure, endure,
and prepare for that chance meeting at an airport bar.
You look at me and I know I have blown my cover.
When I talk of taking a trip I mean forever.
from “Four Postcards”
“What range and abundance! A catalogue of trench coats, a daughter’s first hunger, the stories of George Sand, Marie Curie, and, of course, Breton’s love, the unforgettable, unknowable Nadja. Each of these poems is fully felt, finely formed, astonishingly different from the next. Susan Elmslie compels you to linger with admiration — but also to keep turning the pages, breathless for the next discovery.” — Stephanie Bolster
“If for no other reason, buy this book for the ‘I, Nadja’ poems. They are brilliant. But there is another reason — the book itself — all of it.” — P.K. Page