Rachel Moritz’s debut collection explores the terrain of memory and desire as it’s mapped onto language. Her haunting, luminous poems consider the spirit’s place in the body of childhood and the queer experience.
These poems ask, what is the connection between thinking and feeling? And how do boundaries in time and space find expression in our lives? Calling on traditions of lyric experiment in American poetry, stretching back to Emily Dickinson, Borrowed Wave employs the image as connective tissue between states of formlessness and constraint. In three sections linked by the metaphor of water and the wave, these poems explore how places of the past are mapped spatially in our minds, how experience creates an emotive imprint on the self, and how awakening to desire embarks us on a journey of bewilderment.
Moritz’s poetic range displays wide formal variation, including the prose poem, the series, and deft use of the fragment. Her images leap and build associatively, just as her quietly authoritative poems seek to make “recognition of our lives/ a little easier.
Praise for Borrowed Wave
“We sometimes view beauty with suspicion—how does the pleasure it affords seduce us, mislead us? The startling beauty of Rachel Moritz’s poems serves a different purpose. This beauty spatializes experience as an exquisite, if partially remembered—wavering—landscape. In that way, Moritz employs the beautiful as a tool that teaches us to be suspicious of time, space, and experience. (“So you can believe in the past, but it is still deciding.”) The reader wanders this poetry, immersed in the poet’s quandaries: “Who were you waiting for before you came?” and “Where was my body when before/hadn’t vanished?” The questions are necessarily inconclusive. Even so, Moritz pursues with patience, skill, ardor. The Borrowed Wave laps at our feet, soothing. And then it swells and overtakes us”–. ——Elizabeth Robinson, author of On Ghosts
“The borrowed wave is a wave of nostalgia. Whose? From whom is it borrowed? To whom lent? What’s that hiding word-spirit behind the wind in the curtains? What else is going on while the girl observes her family and surroundings, and what of those half-hid intuitions does she make her own? All of them and then some. The love-child of Lyn Hejinian and Elizabeth Bishop, Moritz evokes, in sweet paratactical bewilderment, the fear that is never far from wonder in a sensitive child’s lang-scape. “… cormorants and otters swam close/ to the text, hoping for names” And she names them, this girl-god, girl-poet, as if she is the first.”
—Maria Damon, author of pleasureTEXTpossession
“Book of memory, of metaphysics, of intimacy and of sex, book of selfhood and place, Borrowed Wave travels from childhood landscapes into adulthood’s uncertain territory, each of its poems “visceral as/becoming is.” Syntax is the protagonist of these poems, a singular intelligence singing its way through the vicissitudes of coming to know itself in body and in thought. “The soul is real,” Moritz writes, “but what does she want?” This book embodies the canny paradox that the more we come to know ourselves as adults, the more the essential questions of Being deepen. “In love with making an unknown thing,” Moritz has a remarkable, rare gift for bare narratives whose restraint and abstraction allow the things we think we’ve come to know to become unknown again, so we might know them more accurately in all their weird oblique beauty.”
—Brian Teare, author of Companion Grasses
“The poet here reports on a world borrowed and remembered, yet still unmade—“unmade as wilderness.” In her thinking and in her telling, Rachel Moritz sets the reader on a pilgrimage, moving out of both shared and individual history and out of belief. The landmarks of politics and family and understanding are refracted and reframed in her thinking and in her telling. If you hold onto your breath, you’ll find yourself in a place of new meaning. That world is filled with song. This book is wondrous and heartbreaking.”
—G.E. Patterson, author of To and From
Excerpt from Borrowed Wave
(In childhood, a caught space)
Your Nana was ironing sheets
in her Lemon Joy kitchen.
Wings without body, linen snagged on the lip
of her board. Was she a bird?
‘I can smell the rubbers in the front entry
as I sat on the hall-tree seat and hunted
for my galoshes,’ she wrote,
remembering how an object locates—
You were drinking milk from her blue Delft tea-
cup. By the slice of window you lifted up
her teacup, left a rim of white on blue flowers.
Little moths or butterflies, parting waves.