“Rachel’s voice is that of a seer, mystic, and ecstatic lover of existence who knows very clearly the intimacy of destruction and nonexistence. On the other hand, she manages to sound like a close friend simply pointing out the ravishing beauty that surrounds us. Hers is the voice of our inner friend. If this collection is any proof, she is on a path of ever-deepening power, insight, and craft. We’re blessed by these poems and by Rachel Webster’s presence in our time.”

    —Li-Young Lee, author of Rose, City in Which I Love You and Behind My Eyes.

  • Available through all major retailers

    “Rachel’s voice is that of a seer, mystic, and ecstatic lover of existence who knows very clearly the intimacy of destruction and nonexistence. On the other hand, she manages to sound like a close friend simply pointing out the ravishing beauty that surrounds us. Hers is the voice of our inner friend. If this collection is any proof, she is on a path of ever-deepening power, insight, and craft. We’re blessed by these poems and by Rachel Webster’s presence in our time.”

    —Li-Young Lee, author of Rose, City in Which I Love You and Behind My Eyes.

  • Available through all major retailers

    “Rachel’s voice is that of a seer, mystic, and ecstatic lover of existence who knows very clearly the intimacy of destruction and nonexistence. On the other hand, she manages to sound like a close friend simply pointing out the ravishing beauty that surrounds us. Hers is the voice of our inner friend. If this collection is any proof, she is on a path of ever-deepening power, insight, and craft. We’re blessed by these poems and by Rachel Webster’s presence in our time.”

    —Li-Young Lee, author of Rose, City in Which I Love You and Behind My Eyes.

  • Available through all major retailers

    “Rachel’s voice is that of a seer, mystic, and ecstatic lover of existence who knows very clearly the intimacy of destruction and nonexistence. On the other hand, she manages to sound like a close friend simply pointing out the ravishing beauty that surrounds us. Hers is the voice of our inner friend. If this collection is any proof, she is on a path of ever-deepening power, insight, and craft. We’re blessed by these poems and by Rachel Webster’s presence in our time.”

    —Li-Young Lee, author of Rose, City in Which I Love You and Behind My Eyes.

  • Available through all major retailers

    “Rachel’s voice is that of a seer, mystic, and ecstatic lover of existence who knows very clearly the intimacy of destruction and nonexistence. On the other hand, she manages to sound like a close friend simply pointing out the ravishing beauty that surrounds us. Hers is the voice of our inner friend. If this collection is any proof, she is on a path of ever-deepening power, insight, and craft. We’re blessed by these poems and by Rachel Webster’s presence in our time.”

    —Li-Young Lee, author of Rose, City in Which I Love You and Behind My Eyes.

About

Rachel Jamison Webster

Rachel Jamison Webster grew up in the small town of Madison, Ohio, on Lake Erie, and now lives in Evanston, Illinois, where she is an Associate Professor in English and Creative Writing at Northwestern University. She is the author of September: Poems (TriQuarterly Books 2013); the cross-genre book of poetry and fiction, The Endless Unbegun (Twelve Winters Press 2015); Mary is a River (Kelsay Books 2018), which was a finalist for the National Poetry Series; and The Sea Came Up & Drowned (Raw Books 2020), which combines erasure poems and collage art to meditate on our extractive relationship to the earth. 

Rachel has also published two chapbooks with Dancing Girl Press, Hazel and the Mirror (2015) and The Blue Grotto (2009). Since 2015, she has focused more and more on prose. She has written and published dozens of essays in anthologies and journals, including PoetryTin House, The Paris Review, The Yale Review and The L.A. Review of Books, some of which can be found here.

In 2016, Rachel received a Weinberg College Teaching Award and a Hewlett Fellowship for her design and implementation of diversities and social inequities curriculum at Northwestern. Before she taught at the college level, she designed and taught writing workshops for urban youth through Gallery 37. She helped develop the paid after-school arts program Words 37 with Chicago’s First Lady, Maggie Daley, and co-edited two anthologies of writing by young Chicagoans, Alchemy (2001) and Paper Atrium (2005). Rachel also co-founded and directed the online anthology of international poetry, UniVerse, and created a radio series about poetry for Chicago Public Radio, called The Gift. Rachel has been an Op-Ed Public Voices Fellow, winner of an American Association of University Women Award and recipient of Emerging Artist Awards from the Poetry Foundation and the Poetry Center of Chicago. She is currently a Kaplan Fellow in the Humanities at Northwestern University.

 

Books

Sea Came and Drowned, by Rachel Webster

“By imagining the human as geological and the geological as human, Webster warns that the human story of extraction has implications for the human future and the earth’s future.

--Tracy Zeman, author of Empire 

Available through all major retailers

“The Endless Unbegun is a marked departure for Rachel Jamison Webster. It's a work located at the margins--the margins of present and past, of the lyrical and the narrative, of flesh and spirit, of the sacred and profane--and each page of this ambitious book is animated by the energy and imaginative daring that genuine departures require. In employing poetry to channel and entwine history and myth, Webster has fashioned an ecstatic text.”

—Stuart Dybek, winner of MacArthur, Guggenheim and Lannan Awards and author of seven books, including Paper Lanterns: Love Stories.

Available through all major retailers

“September is an exciting first book that takes the insane and nonsensical experience of grief and gives it a celebratory language that is a joy to read.”

—Matthew Dickman, author of All-American Poem (American Poetry Review/ Copper Canyon Press, 2008) and Mayakovsky’s Revolver (Norton, 2012).

Available through all major retailers

“I read Labor Day the way I ate my first meal after giving birth: I knew I loved labor stories, but I didn’t know I was absolutely starving for them. Ravenous. And they satisfied me; they filled me with wonder and tears and quite a few laugh-out-loud guffaws. And mostly with gratitude that real women shared their real experiences so that all of us can re-experience the wild joy and terror and beauty of giving birth.”

—Elizabeth Lesser, co-founder of Omega Institute and author of Broken Open: How Difficult Times Can Help Us Grow and The Seeker’s Guide: Making Your Life a Spiritual Adventure.

Poetry

“Did You See the Sky” by Rachel Jamison Webster - Poems…
www.poets.org

“Kauai;” “Dolphins at Seven Weeks;” and “La Porte” in Poetry:
http://www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/rachel-webster

“Pomme” in The Paris Review:
http://www.theparisreview.org/blog/2011/06/14/poem-pomme/

“It Is Not Dust We Are Becoming,” “A Load of Darks” and excerpts from “Mary is a River” in the Spoon River Poetry Anthology.
http://www.srpr.org/files/39.1/rachel-jamison-webster-sample-poems.pdf

Excerpts from “Mary is a River” in Narrative Magazine. http://www.narrativemagazine.com/issues/fall-2013/mary-river

“Equinox” in “The Economy”
http://theeconomymagazine.com/Rachel-Jamison-Webster-ISSUE-7

“When You See It” in Rattle.
http://www.rattle.com/poetry/tag/rachel-jamison-webster/

“September You Become Me;” “Hooded Clouds Untranslatable, Once;” “Bleeding Heart;” Cream of the Pour is the Cream of Skin Thickening;” and “Escaping our House Stewing With Life” in M Review: http://docs.marylhurst.edu/mreview/archive/2009/Poetry/5Poems_Webster.html

“The First Season of Marriage” and “Tank” in Blackbird: http://www.blackbird.vcu.edu/v4n1/poetry/webster_rj/index.htm

Audio

Rachel reading 4 poems from September, “I Know Why I Make the Past a Destination,” “Cheyenne,” “Manzanita,” and “Eurydice.

Rachel giving a reading with pianist Mabel Kwan and poets Reginald Gibbons, Ed Roberson and Christina Pugh, 2011.
http://podbay.fm/show/291975625/e/1334642400?autostart=1

Rachel giving a reading with poets Stuart Dybek and Yusef Komunyaaka, 2009:
http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/36th-annual-reading-series-poetry-center-chicago

The Gift,” a poetry series produced by Rachel Jamison Webster and Stanzi Vaubel for Chicago Public Radio.

Reviews

Read a review of The Sea Came Up & Drowned here: www.tupeloquarterly.com



Beyond a bookstore it’s a café or quiet bar where readers find themselves, a kind of “office of the mind” away from the house, the apartment, a place where you can hole up as one does in a library but with an Americano or a pint of beer or an martini. Here in Portland, I have found a few great places to read over the years, some of which have sadly fallen into a television-sports-news-frat-dark hole from which I doubt they will return. Luckily, a few others still hold, offering, on some afternoon or evening, a quiet yet public space big enough for a person, a cocktail, and a book. Recently, I have found a new home at which to sip a beer over some poems or a short story, and that place is The Cardinal Club. Open from 5pm till past 1AM, it’s a perfect place for readers and writers, with two amazingly kind owners who know their way around a highball glass and shaker.

Recently, I spent the early evening there drinking a Black IPA, eating some amazing food, and reading Rachel Jamison Webster’s new collection “September” (Tri-quarterly Books, 2013). Of Webster’s poems, Li-Young Lee writes that she “speaks breathlessly in praise, in awe, in pain, and in wonder at the manifold nature of being alive” and that “Here is the voice of our inner friend.” Which, after reading Webster’s poems, I couldn’t agree with more.This book of lyric narratives is aptly titled, for what is September if not the beginning of a season where things die, the air gets chillier, and we naturally think of the past. This is a book of elegy as much as it is a song for life. Elegy for a great love and husband who has died as well as for all of us who are still walking around on earth trying to figure out what love is.

These are poems of the body, poems that come from the body and the wild wind that breaks the body, the soul howling all night in our head and hearts. In the first poem of the book Webster writes:

“Since you went the light is so clear

it has become everything.

Faces peel from the bricks.

And outside the impoverished city hospital

someone has planted an Easter lily.

Its trumpet erupts from green tongues.

White throat that is your life.”

And so we begin a beautiful and energetic book anchored in elegy with the throat of life and all the music that can come from that throat, all the beauty. “September” is an exciting first book that takes the insane and nonsensical experience of grief and gives it a celebratory language that is a joy to read. Buy a copy and head over to The Cardinal Club. There’s a drink, some good food, and a quiet corner for you and Webster’s incredible first book.

—Matthew Dickman is the poetry editor of Tin House and the author of All-American Poem (American Poetry Review/ Copper Canyon Press, 2008) and Mayakovsky’s Revolver (Norton, 2012). He lives and works in Portland, Oregon.



From BOOKLIST

"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

“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 Poems.

“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 new territory.” —Ellen Hagan, author of Crowned



Read a review of Mary is a River here: www.tupeloquarterly.com



Contact

Northwestern University Department of English
University Hall 215
1897 Sheridan Road
Evanston, IL 60208-2240
r-webster at northwestern.edu

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This website was made possible by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council

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