Book review: Corpse Beneath the Crocus by N.N. Nelson

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Rating: 5 out of 5.

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Publication Date: February 15, 2023

Publisher: Atmosphere Press

Genre: Poetry

ISBN: 978-1-63988-738-5

List Price: $16.99 USD Trade Paperback

Page Count: 122

Nelson’s debut book is a collection of raw ruminations that delve into her heartbreaking and profound journey of grief after she lost her husband unexpectedly in 2018. In “Memory,” the intense interweaving of words and emotion creates a sense of immersion: “Memory is heavy/ Cement bricks tied to feet/ On the edge/ Of a push into the river.” Most of the poems reflect the emotional arc of the author (“Poor Little Bird, “Waves,” “A Quiet Night,” “Opening Night”). Not all the poems deal with grief though: “Sleepy House,” for example, explores a regular day in a typical mother’s life. “A Seed” is ruminative and reflective. “Fishbowl” begs to be read and reread in order to appreciate the full force of its rhythmic beat: “Stars winking through the crystal window/ Walls, barely visible but for the ripple/ Moonlight makes at the edges/ The corners/ A mirage/ Strange illusive form/ Shaped from a tired mind/ Hands stretch toward the possibilities/ Testing the panoramic view.” Alternating in style from super short, poignant verses to longer pieces of poetry and prose (“Love Letter” reads like a confessional vignette), these poems explore Nelson’s persistent, traumatic feelings as she cycles through various stages of grief, including pain, denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. While grounded in the author’s personal experience, the central theme of grief is very much universal, making this beautiful work deeply relevant. Raw, breathtaking, and brilliant.


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