Eggtooth, Jesse Nathan
Fine Softcover; 136 pages; 6.5″ x 8.5″
Original Publication Date: September 5, 2023
Fine Softcover Publication Date: January 29, 2024
“Brilliant and unexpected … This is gorgeous writing … made out of an intense, sensual sense of place.”
— Robert Hass
In this debut collection, Jesse Nathan matches an exquisite feeling for the music of lines and sentences with his profound explorations of the idea of home. The book’s title comes from the word for a bit of cartilage on a baby bird’s beak, a growth that helps it break out of the egg. Shortly after the bird hatches, the tooth disappears. Like an eggtooth, Nathan’s poems are often figures for the violence of birth and, in his case, rebirth. They follow an unusual and passionate boy from his childhood on a wheat farm in the watershed of the Running Turkey Creek in rural southcentral Kansas — “the land was always the solace” — to his life years later in a coastal city.
Ecology, family, history, sexuality, and poetry itself are his subjects, but in all these matters, Nathan’s rich formal imagination travels our fundamental feelings of alienation and belonging. In a style somehow both lavish and plainspoken, in free verse and inherited forms, Eggtooth takes us from straw-bale fortresses in the hayloft, from fishing in streams and days so hot the “blank road shimmers” as the heat drives you out of your “straw-frail” mind, to the respite and loneliness of a far-off city plaza, to the “waves in their folding” at the edge where an ocean comes “boiling” onto sand. With verbal precision and abiding sympathy, Nathan’s poems announce a capacious and deeply compelling new voice in American letters.
Jesse Nathan was raised in northern California and rural Kansas. He teaches literature at UC Berkeley, and he was a founding editor of the McSweeney’s Poetry Series. His poems have appeared in The New York Review of Books, The Paris Review, and The New Republic. This is his first book.
“Jesse Nathan’s Eggtooth is an ambitious, brilliant rethinking of what making a poem is. Again and again the author makes us feel that we have been present at the creation.”
“Here is the Gerard Manley Hopkins of the 21st-century …”
“One of the newborn wonders of the world …”
“Here poetry is a pleasure, a thrill, an homage.”
“I love the poems in Eggtooth … I love the way they make me see anew.”
“I can’t think of another writer who so clearly sees the land for what it is: the actual organ from which we emerge and whose fate is directly linked to our own …”
Marie Mutsuki Mockett
“Brilliant and unexpected … This is gorgeous writing … It registers at the level of sound the way everything is like and not like everything else; it creates an ecosystem of echoic effects … A book about growing up … about, made out of, an intense, sensual sense of place.”
Robert Hass, from the foreword