"Webster’s sensuous, memory-haunted collection is a celebration of life wrapped in an elegy. The book begins, “You shawl me like smoke.” This seeds Webster’s fascination with sheltering fog and disorienting mist and prompts poignant inquiry into images of enfolding and surrounding, shrouding and swaddling. Webster’s speaker misses her deceased beloved and marvels over her infant daughter. “My first word was look,” she declares, and hers are delving eyes. She sees nature as an enveloping, penetrating, and vital presence, and its perpetual motion infuses Webster’s darting, whirling, gliding lines. Childhood memories embody a cellular affinity with nature, a sense of awe, while a poem of sickbed vigils, loss, and life’s determined renewal is anchored to the sight of thriving ivy on a brick hospital wall. Webster announces, “This world in its spiked beauty splits me,” and this sense of division, of the divide between sorrow and joy, life and death, subtly shapes her gracefully crafted, ardently observed poems in which vowels chime and consonants clang. Nuanced and caring poems that reach from the immediate and intimate to the timeless and universal."
—Donna Seaman, Booklist
“Webster’s resonant poems perceive with the astonishing clarity of a visionary remove,
even as they inhabit feelingly a solid world honey-combed with interior being:
‘water-carved caves…inner rivers ambered by/lime’s radiant decay,//form maintained by
its secret of space…’”
—Eleanor Wilner, author of Tourist in Hell and Reversing the Spell: New and Selected
“Rachel Webster is the purveyor of the velvet hammer and the one-two punch.”
--Brian Bouldrey, author of The Sorrow of the Elves and Traveling Souls: Contemporary Pilgrimage Stories.
“Rachel Webster’s September is a journey through nature, the body, birth, motherhood
and death. Sometimes Webster’s writing is delicate, and sometimes bold, but there is a
lushness when she is describing the natural world around her. There is a connection and
recurrence of these elements and items throughout the book: bodies of water (ocean,
great lakes, rivers, currents), trees/plants (branches, leaves, flowers). It is in the
specific details, and her dedication to the small elements that makes nature move and
breathe in this book. It becomes a live thing, and she takes her time with these
details: “I look out. Black leaves color of dried blood, we are all just river/ pouring
over/ the wheel, In the center of my life was fear/a body of it, water.”
There is also a serious focus on the body in September, with poems like: “Bleeding
Heart,” “Milk,” and “Kauai,” and there are moments of connecting all things: the body
and nature, nature and motherhood/birth, and it is in these combinations that the poems
really start to awaken. In “Milk,” she compares nursing to a river and an ocean, and in
“Kauai,” it is her opened legs to a tropical flower. There is conversation between the
body and where it lives. With poems like “Ocean and Integer,” and “Fired in the Body,”
there is a strong juxtaposition between the body and nature:I unhinge from my body/
becoming a stirring in the stars, and a churning current our body/ rowed out and out
on/ until it hit the chopping sea. In the middle section of September, these
connections start to open up, and the book becomes charged with emotions. These are the
poems that are most courageous, and most vulnerable to me as a reader. “How can we not ache with everything/ around us breathing and time/ falling through our bodies
like dust/ and these last leaves- squash and mouth-“ I am reminded of my own
body, and its constant changing and movement, and the way it careens through the world.
There is a fullness that the book builds to, and a serious questioning of life that is
exciting to watch unfold.
Webster’s details are vulnerable, specific and push the poems in various directions.
This is a manuscript that is not afraid of surprising its reader, and in fact
challenges them throughout, with poems like: “Double Vision” and “Wintering.” The
reader is not always safe with these poems, and that is an exciting space to be in.
Webster oscillates between the beauty of nature and the complexity of birth and death.
It often felt like a current of water, and each poem was a buoy that propelled me into
—Ellen Hagan, author of Crowned